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Reading in the Dark Paperback – 1997


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Paperback, 1997
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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Vintage; Later Printing edition (1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099744414
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099744412
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 181 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,975,362 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Claire Sharpe on Feb. 28 2001
Format: Paperback
Reading in the Dark might merely have been one more "miserable Irish childhood" story, sandwiched between Angela's Ashes and Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, and dismissed. Seamus Deane's unnamed boy author -- nameless, it seems, because his world can't be bothered to notice him -- fits squarely between Frank McCourt and Paddy Clarke in era and in social class. He does not suffer Frank's horrific poverty, nor does he own the books that he reads, as Paddy does. The boy's life in a large working-class Catholic family, with its minimal adult supervision, at least one parent who cannot cope, cruel priests for teachers, and the necessary string of funerals, initially seems to be heading down the literary path to deja-vu.
Seamus Deane, born in Derry, Northern Ireland in 1940, and now a professor at the University of Notre Dame, rescues his first novel from this downward spiral with his ability to transform stereotypical storylines into shattering new tales. Deane masterfully subverts the IRA theme of glory and honour; of fighting and dying for Ireland. He gives us the story of the narrator's Uncle Eddie, introduced as an IRA hero who either escaped from or was killed in a shoot-out with Protestant policemen, but who has not been seen or heard from since.
Deane plays with this contrived, glorious IRA getaway story, tempting the reader to take the anecdote at face value, to romanticize Eddie as a hero. He then inserts a twist -- we learn that Eddie does not have a hero's reputation outside of his family, but is seen as a police informer, a "stooly," by the Catholic community. This reputation stains Eddie's entire family, including the nephew that he never met.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Nov. 1 2000
Format: Paperback
Seamus Deane is a wonderful poet as well as a historian and
anthologist of Irish literature. Reading in the Dark, however, is his
first novel. It is both a triumph of literature and of the human
spirit; one of the most beautiful books anyone could ever hope to
read.
Deane, like James Joyce, is a writer who cannot be separated
from his native Ireland. Reading in the Dark is the first-person
narrative of a boy, who, like Deane, grew up in Derry in the 1940s and
1950s. Although the dust jacket says this book is a novel, it reads
more like a beautiful, meditative and intensely personal memoir. We
are never told the boy/narrator's name, but there are many named
characters in the book: Ellis, Una, Dierdre, Liam, Gerard, Eamon.
There is an Uncle Manus and an Aunt Katie. Additonally, the place
names serve to identify this as an unquestionalby Irish book, taking
place in Derry.
The structure of Reading in the Dark is deliberately
jagged but never jarring. There are short chapters that are further
divided into ever shorter episodes. We are introduced to all of the
narrator's many borthers and sisters but only one, Liam, becomes a
major character throughout the course of the book. The other
characters deliberately come and go and some are even forgettable,
while others are not.
The first vignette is dated "February
1945" and the last "July 1971." All the other vignettes
fall within this time frame. But Derry, the reader must remember, is
in Northern Ireland, where the past can never really be separated from
the present.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 12 1997
Format: Hardcover
This was one of the most moving accounts of childhood I have read. After finishing the novel, the only thoughts I had were of the family, the secrets, the truths that were known and those that were not. Every family has these, and Deane has written a remarkable story that brings them together. Set in post-war Derry, Ireland, the novel embraces the life of a child who matures through the secrets he discovers about his families involvement with the IRA and the police, and the ghosts that are left behind to perpetually haunt them. This book is a must read for anyone who has grown up knowing secrets they shouldn't know
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Jan. 7 1997
Format: Hardcover
Written as an autobiography of a boy growing up in Ireland from the 30's
through the 70's. Made the Booker Shortlist. Delicately weaves folktales
and stories into the boys own story
and his families secret. The writing is wonderful and the style and command
of language, and at times subject matter, is reminiscent of Joyce's "Portrait
of an Artist." I'm looking forward to the next book by Seamus Deane.
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By A Customer on Feb. 14 2002
Format: Paperback
This beautiful book reads more like a poignant and heartbreaking memoir than a novel. It's difficult to believe the incidents described are really fiction and not the author's reality...they are described so well and in just the right detail.
Reading in the Dark is a story of ghosts, of legends, and most of all, of secrets...Irish secrets. The narrator, whose name we never learn, struggles to unravel the truth of those secrets and as he does, he learns what it really means to grow up in Northern Ireland, surrounded by the shadows of political turmoil.
Although I really didn't identify with any of the characters in this book, I found them very engrossing and came to care about them deeply. Some of the characters are quite well-fleshed out while others remain only fragments of the author's imagination. Most make only brief appearances in the novel, although one, Liam, shares the spotlight with the unnamed narrator.
Reading in the Dark is a different sort of coming-of-age story. It is beautiful, lyrical, brutal and truly unforgettable. And truly the work of an Irish mind.
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