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“I knew them only now when they were lost, I’d loved them without knowing, and only learned of the love in the losing…”

The Dark ~ John McGahern

I was introduced to this book when we read its first page at a workshop, and it had me hooked. From the first words, McGahern was able to mirror the dark, claustrophobic and oppressed world of 1960’s rural Ireland.

The story begins with a father forcing his son to strip for allegedly cursing, bend over a chair and await thrashing, while his siblings watch in terror. It’s a coming-of-age novel, a bildungsroman in its traditional sense but unlike one that you might have read before. The book was banned upon release, forcing McGahern to quit his teaching job and flee to England, for daring to write about the truths of his society. About the hypocrisy of the Irish Catholic church, the violent physical and sexual abuse, incest and the hopeless yearning for freedom.

The book is well written, undoubtedly the work of a master storyteller and a skilled writer. McGahern is able to switch with ease between first, second and third person perspectives within the Chapters, which pleasantly will not throw the reader off.

I implore you to get your hands on this book.

Why you should read it:

  • Because it is an important book, no matter which country you belong to
  • It is a difficult book to read, only for its subject, but one is rewarded with a haunting portrayal of reality

Why you shouldn’t read it:

  • If you might be left squeamish by some graphic scenes of violence or sexual abuse
  • If you’re looking for an easy light read