Friday, 18 June 2021

The Darlings by Angela Jackson - #BookReview

 Before I begin my review of this book I have some exciting news! Next Monday, the 21st of June, there will be an interview with Angela Jackson, right here on the blog. So, please drop by on Monday to find out more about this very talented author.

"When Mark Darling was fifteen years old, he killed his best friend.

In an attempt to score a perfect six, he swung a cricket bat with such force that his young hands lost their grip on it. He laughed as the bat zoomed through the air, until it hit Fergus Banks on the head with a firm whack.

Mark's body clock shifted. He shut out the daylight, slept sun up to sun down. At night, fuelled almost solely by junk food, he lurked online, clicking and scrolling his way around, while documentaries buzzed at low volume from the television. His parents tried to help, via a conveyor belt of therapists, but each time he described the accident, it served only to burn the sounds and images more deeply into his brain."
The Blurb

When Mark Darling is fifteen years old, he is golden boy, captain of the school football team, admired by all who know him. Until he kills his best friend in a freak accident.

He spends the next decade drifting between the therapy couch and dead-end pursuits. Then along comes Sadie. A mender by nature, she tries her best to fix him, and has enough energy to carry them both through the next few years.

One evening, Mark bumps into an old school friend, Ruby. She saw the accident first hand. He is pulled towards her by a force stronger than logic: the universal need to reconcile one's childhood wounds. This is his chance to, once again, feel the enveloping warmth of unconditional love. But can he leave behind the woman who rescued him from the pit of despair, the wife he loves? His unborn child?

This is a story about how childhood experience can profoundly impact how we behave as adults. It's a story about betrayal, infidelity and how we often blinker ourselves to see a version of the truth that is more palatable to us.


Every once in a while I read a book whereby I am so engrossed that real life becomes an irritation. It intrudes upon the fictional world that I have become so completely absorbed by. This was one of those books that I could not put down. A series of conveniently short chapters found me promising myself "just one more before I turn the light out and go to sleep." One more chapter quickly turned into ten... or twenty.

This is Angela Jackson's second novel to be published. I read The Emergence of Judy Taylor back in 2013 when it was first published and you can read my review by clicking here. In fact, it made it into my top ten books of the year because I enjoyed it so much.

In fact, in that review I said, "Angela Jackson... is a new writer to watch and if this book is anything to judge by, she will produce some outstanding writing." And indeed she has done just that. Sometimes it is very gratifying to be able to say, "I told you so."

Although Mark is the central character, Ms. Jackson has made her other characters so real that my sympathies were not solely with Mark but with Sadie and Ruby too. There were times when I wanted to shake all three of them because, as the reader, I could anticipate the potential pitfalls in which they might fall.

In Mark, the author has created an extremely complex character and I frequently found my sympathies to be in juxtaposition. At times I felt empathy towards him. At other times his apparent selfishness rankled as he messed with the lives and emotions of others. However, he is a realistic character who demonstrates that both love and life are rarely straightforward.

As much as I enjoyed reading the author's first work, her writing has matured during the interval between the two novels. The Darlings is a sophisticated book which compels the reader to be empathetic and to laugh and cry simultaneously.

I unreservedly recommend this novel and feel confident that it will make it into my top ten books at the end of this year also.

ISBN: 978 1785631337

Publisher: Lightning Books

About the Author:

Angela Jackson is a former psychology lecturer. Her debut novel The Emergence of Judy Taylor won the Edinburgh International Book Festival's First Book Award in 2013 and was Waterstones' Scottish Book of the Year. She lives in Edinburgh.

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