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What They Do in the Darkby Amanda Coe
Synopses & Reviews
Like Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin and Donna Tartt's The Little Friend, this gripping novel pulls you toward its unimaginable climax and will leave you haunted and heartbroken.
Spoiled but emotionally neglected Gemma, who seems to have everything, and semi-feral Pauline, who has less than nothing, are two very different ten-year-old girls growing up in a tough Yorkshire town in the 1970s. Pauline longs for the simple luxuries of Gemma's life: her neatly folded socks and her clean hair. Gemma, upset by her parent's breakup, loses herself in fantasies of meeting the child television star Lallie. When Lallie shoots a movie in their hometown, Gemma and Pauline grab the chance for their wildest dreams to come true. But the film becomes a terrible catalyst for the larger forces acting on the two girls, a dysfunctional adult world that trickles down to the children; and playground bullying escalates, with dreadful consequences.
"It begins for 10-year-old Gemma Barlow, almost mockingly as it turns out, with another one of her 'perfect Saturdays,' a languid day of swimming and hot chocolate and comics and sweets. Very soon, however, this insistently bleak debut by British television writer Coe launches a snowball of dysfunction and trauma that culminates in a horrific gut-punch climax. In a 1970s northern English town, Gemma lives a coddled life, but when her parents separate and she and her mother move in with her mother's boyfriend, her world is knocked askew. Gemma's life still seems enviable to classmate Pauline Bright, though, who endures chaos and neglect at home. As the two girls fall into each other's sinking spirals, the arrival in town of Gemma's idol, child star Lallie Paluza, to film a movie, acts as a catalyst not for a happy reversal but for a culmination of sufferings. Although the perspective of the book, even when narrated by Gemma, doesn't feel particularly childlike, a sense of powerlessness and half-awareness of adult events and motivations feels authentic and heightens the tension. Coe plots these ruined childhoods in a convincing fashion, including everything from drugs to divorce to molestation, without a heavy hand. She has an adept eye for psychological progression, but her unsparingly dreary vision makes for tough going. Agent: Anna Webber, United Agents, U.K." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
An unforgettable debut about the pain, joy, and occasional beauty of childhood and its nearly unspeakable dangers.
About the Author
Amanda Coe is a writer and screen-writer whose television credits include the British program As If. She lives in England.
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