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In a Dark Woodby Amanda Craig
Synopses & Reviews
Interspersing the magic of fairy tales with a wry yet touching narrative, Amanda Craig examines the thin line between fantasy and reality, creativity and mental illness.
Benedick Hunter is a recently divorced, out-of-work, thirty-nine-year-old actor. Feeling both guilty and sorry for himself, he blunders through weekends with his two spirited children and fends off various women desperate to snare an eligible man, all the time fearing that he is on the brink of a nervous breakdown.
His life takes on a new direction, however, when he discovers a long-forgotten book of fairy tales his mother wrote and illustrated decades earlier. Drawn to its pages, he becomes entranced by the hints of reality embedded in the stories, from thinly veiled portraits of his own father and his parents? acquaintances to alluring glimpses of his mother as a young woman. Convinced that the stories can explain his mother?s suicide when he was six and put an end to his agonizing mood swings, Benedick embarks on a journey to untangle the past, a journey that eventually takes him to the heart of his own nature, modern fatherhood, manic depression, and the elusive character of fairy-tales.
With imagination and incisive wit, Amanda Craig has written a novel that was selected as one of the "best of the year?s books" by the The Times of London, which wrote, "Although not frightening enough to give you sleepless nights, Craig?s wonderful, page-turning storytelling will keep you up way past your time for bed."
"An intriguing idea is marred by poor execution....Although the story is engaging and maintains interest, its weaknesses overpower its strengths. Neither Benedick's mania nor his children are convincingly depicted...and the book reads as if it were switching genres from realistic fiction to Gothic romance." Library Journal
"This is a sneakily beguiling book, an improbable but very effective concoction that mixes the hypnotic, elemental forces invoked by Laura's stories with wry humor about such mundane vexations as suddenly having to take care of the kids for the weekend and the indignities of an actor's life....Craig also manages to negotiate some complicated territory without resorting to easy answers....In a Dark Wood is studded with unforgettable images...but Craig keeps things fleet and economical — there's no need to clot up your story with 'literary' prose when you can scatter gems in your wake. Everything Craig is good at — describing Laura's haunting illustrations so that you'd swear you grew up with them yourself; ratcheting up the intensity of Benedick's mania gradually, so that it takes you almost as long as it takes him to realize he's losing it — she pulls off so deftly, so unshowily that it's easy to miss the fact that you're in the hands of a master." Laura Miller, Salon.com (read the entire Salon review)
"Clever, imaginative, and even darkly humorous, Craig's novel, like a book of beloved fairy tales, gives us a hero to root for and an inventive, multilayered story." Kristine Huntley, Booklist
"[A] dreamy, spellbinding novel....With a sure hand, Craig brings chilling suspense and dark humor to a stylized study of the loss of childhood innocence, the complexities of creativity, and the correlation between artistic genius and mental health all expertly cloaked in the symbols and metaphors of fairy tales." Publishers Weekly
The author of Foreign Bodies, A Private Place and A Vicious Circle pens an imaginative, darkly humorous novel about a middle-aged man who finds the key to his own erratic nature in the popular fairy tales written by the mother he barely knew.
Thirty-nine, recently divorced, jobless, Benedick Hunter is an actor heading in the exact opposite direction of happily ever after: everything from spending time with his own children to the prospect of dating brings him down. So when he comes across a children's book his mother Laura wrote, he decides that her life and work--haunting stories replete with sinister woods and wicked witches and brave girls who battle giants--hold the key to figuring out why his own life is such a mess.
Setting out to find out why Laura killed herself when he was six, Benedick travels from his native England to the U.S. in search of her friends and his own long-lost relatives. As he grows obsessed with Laura's books and their veiled references to reality Benedick enters into a dark wood-a dark wood that is both hilariously real and terrifyingly psychological. It is then that his story becomes an exploration not only of his mother's genius but also of the nature of depression, and of the healing power of storytelling in our lives.
About the Author
Amanda Craig is the author of Foreign Bodies, A Private Place and A Vicious Circle, which is currently being developed for BBC television. In a Dark Wood is the first of her novels to be published in the United States. Craig, who writes regularly for The Times, The Sunday Times, and The New Statesman, lives in London.
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