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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Brave New Ireland
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...
Published on Feb. 28 2001 by Claire Sharpe

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3.0 out of 5 stars Needs a candle to read in the dark after Angela's Ashes!
I don't know what exactly it was that disappointed me so about this book. Perhaps it was its disjointed beginning chapters, or that I felt it never really picked up with any sort of continuous flow. I never felt like I knew any of the characters well enough to sympathize or relate to them. There are no scenes or anecdotes that memorably capture the heart, mind or...
Published on March 17 1998 by Amy Battis


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Brave New Ireland, Feb. 28 2001
By 
Claire Sharpe (Oxford, England) - See all my reviews
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. The boy is ostracized by his community when, about to be beaten by a gang of boys, he throws a stone at a passing police car in an attempt to escape.
"Once and informer, always an informer," the Protestant policemen sneer.
"F----- stooly," shout his friends.
"Is there something amiss with you?" his father asks.
Deane's layered treatment of conflict is gripping. Hiding beneath each layer -- political, religious, familial, and parent-child -- is a secret, founded partly in myth, partly in history, and considered sacred by the novel's adults. Deane turns the centrality of myth and history in Irish society from a charming tale, as it is most often seen, to a source of great turmoil for a young boy.
The narrator, skeptical of the myths that he is bombarded with, and determined to uncover the truth about his family and world, asks questions in a society in which blind faith is required. This throws him and, to an extent, the reader into conflict with everyone around him. The novel's structure, a series of snapshots of events in the boy's life, puts the reader and the boy on even ground in their quest for the truth. Both are privy to the same limited sources of information, both are told the same stories, and both must piece these tidbits together to make sense of the novel's new Ireland.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Triumph, Nov. 1 2000
By A Customer
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. Remembering is an essential part of life in Derry and
the past is the present in the fear, the death, the haunted faces of
friends and family. Most of all, though, the past of Derry is present
in that most hurtful of all human hurts: betrayal.
We first meet the
narrator and his mother when she is standing on the landing in their
house. The boy, who is standing on the tenth step says, "I could
have touched her." The mother, however, stops him, saying,
"Don't move...There's something there between us. A shadow.
Don't move." The boy, who sees no shadow, nevertheless obeys.
With the passing of the years, however, we, along with the narrator,
come to plumb the secrets of this mother's heart; as we learn how her
secrets have come to define and torture her, we also learn how they
have come to define and trouble her son.
The shadows and ghosts in
Reading in the Dark come to haunt the narrator in many ways. As he
hears his family speak of events that took place in Derry years before
he was born, he comes to wonder why these events happened and why they
happened as they did.
We learn the answers to some of the
questions but we never learn more than the narrator does. If
something remains to haunt him, it also remains to haunt us. For the
narrator, as for us, the answers come in fragments and not at all in
any easy manner. Together, they form the boy's coming-of-age and they
serve to deepen our own understanding of the true nature of human
trust and betrayal, the two emotions that most serve to strengthen or
destroy the bonds of love.
Like other writers of contemporary Irish
fiction, Deane's novel breathes life, Irish life, in all of its
heartbreaking fullness. Although very different from Frank McCourt's
Tis: A Memoir, Reading in the Dark shares the same refusal to pull
back from the sordid in life. We are exposed to all the dirty
streets, the sewers, the vermin, the sickness, the death. Although
Deane's book is relieved with some humor, it is certainly not
Rabelaisian gusto. We are treated instead, to the artful and elusive
chuckle of a Celtic twilight.
And, while McCourt's father literally
sung the praises of the Irish folk stories, the father in Deane's book
goes one step further by actually taking his sons to visit the places
both sacred and haunted. One, The Field of the Disappeared which lies
near the border of the Irish Free State serves to sum up the
narrator's Irish heritage: "There was a belief that it was here
that the souls of all those from the area who had disappeared, or had
never had a Christian burial...collected three or four times a
year--on St. Brigid's Day, on the festival of Sunhain, on
Christmas--to cry like birds and look down on the fields where they
had been born. Any human who entered the field would suffer the same
fate...."
The language in Reading in the Dark is spare, but it
is also very poetic and lyrical. Deane weaves beautifully-crafted
stories within his story and even when their relevance to the main
plot is not immediately made clear, we still feel their connection,
for this book tells the tale of a shadow world, one inhabited by
ghosts and demons and spirits, one that lives under the constant
threat of political and moral treachery.
The title of the book is a
masterful stroke of brilliance. In a vignette called, "Reading
in the Dark," the narrator tells us how he had to turn out his
light even though he was in the middle of reading his very first
novel. Lying in the dark, he thinks about the book and holds a
conversation with its characters. "I'd lie there, the book still
open, reimagining all I had read, the various ways the plot might
unravel, the novel opening into endless possibilities in the
dark." The narrator's life unfolds in much the same way as he
seeks to tie the disparate threads, one to the other, in an effort to
find their meaning.
Ultimately, Reading in the Dark is a beautiful
triumph; a gorgeous book, poetically written that reveals much about
the nature of mankind's greatest mystery, the mystery we call...Life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing, brilliant and very moving, March 12 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Reading in the Dark (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
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great Irish writer,best book I've read in years., Jan. 7 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Reading in the Dark (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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5.0 out of 5 stars Like a Poignant Memoir, Feb. 14 2002
By A Customer
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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4.0 out of 5 stars (...), Nov. 27 2001
By A Customer
Reading in The Dark
By: Seamus Deane
This is a young adult fiction novel.
This Book takes place back in the 1940's and finishes in the early 1970's. Takes place at a kid's house where he grows up.
This book is much better than other books that I have read of the similar nature. The author uses complex characters and scenes to describe where and what is taking place. I enjoyed reading this book but I don't think that I will read anything else by this author because his writing style was not impressing to me as it might have been to other people. I have never read a book that went into so much detail about little things. This book was better than many books about its size of 250 pages.
This book was written in a vignette format telling short stories about different people, places, and objects. I find it quite hard to follow along to a book written in this format. My favorite character was Toner; he gave hard insight onto what was occurring and was not afraid to speak his mind and knew what he was talking about and I am that way as well. "Jesus that was good," said Toner as the lights went up "I knew it was him all the time."
This is a good book for someone that is wanting to experience and challenge in literary excellence as a teen or a younger adult. If you don't think that you can handle it I would read down a level but do read this book sometime in your life. I sure am glad I did.
(...) Thanx
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4.0 out of 5 stars Details details details, Dec 9 2000
By 
Seamus Deane writes very descriptive and intersting work. He is a renound poet, and his first novel reglects that. The book is beuatifully written. I must be honest, I did not like it the first time through. It might have been because I read at seperate time and forgot details, or it could have been that I was not into it. However, the second time through, it was great. Deane develops a deep and twisting plot that does not unfold until the end of the book. The charecters are introduced along the way , but their importance is not known until later. Also, the small details that I did not notice the first time through played a large part in the direct development of the plot. The untwisting of the tale is slow and deliberate. The charecters personalities come through brightly during the dialouge and when reacting to situations they are put in. The description helps to create wonderful images of desperation, and the irony is used in the most masterful way. All in all, this is a book worth reading, but, as a word of advice, pay attention to detail the whole way through.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Way of Every Flesh, April 11 2000
This review is from: Reading in the Dark (Hardcover)
The book of Irish poet Seamus Deane describes a childhood of an unnamed protagonist in Northern Ireland in the 1950s. This gives opportunity to attain impartial attitude to the situation in Derry in order not to blame participants of the conflict but to discern its cause and motives. Old family mysteries' disclosing makes the novel a real pageturner, but it is only a part of author's plot.
Seamus Deane masterly reconstructs a wonderful universe of child's fantasies: enigmatic and thrilling adult world appears as an exciting fairy tale with additional heroic or terrifying tinges of local political discord. The child grows up, and fantastic histories lose their charms acquiring outlines of reality in terrors, cowardice and treachery of their personae. Former semigods, parents become ordinary mortals with their fears, pains and guilts; but extra knowledge and futher understanding give both additional strength and pride in never-ending children-parents rivalry and additional yearning after innocence of childhood lost once and for all. We become adults only when in comprehension of our parent's vulnerability we find compassion for them. And hope for future mercy from our own children.
An excellent novel!
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4.0 out of 5 stars read it twice, Dec 11 2000
The first time i read the book, I was less than enthused. Though most of the charecters were thoroughly developed I thought that it lacked a sufficient plot. I felt that it was unconnected and confusing. It may have been because I read it during a large time period, perhaps because I was busy with other things, or maybe I was simply mot paying attention. However, I changed my opinion the second time I read it. Since I knew the plot and the charecters, if even on a basic level, I was able to pay more attention to the details in the short passages, and in the dialogue. I found that the plot was twisting and involved, as were all of the charecters. Deane does do a great job with detail and description, this mostly because of his poetry.Though it is not the best book I have ever read, it is worth reading. It is entertaining and also involved. I would be tempted to buy another book by Deane, should he decide to write one. All in all, it is worth reading, but twice at least.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A masterful telling., Jan. 9 2001
Seamus Deane has brilliantly crafted a powerful account of the Northern Irish struggle in a most unique way. Narrated by a growing boy, each short chapter is a little vignette of his life and yet strung together effortlessly like a web to create a moving tale imbued with sadness, love, humour and mystery. The early chapters appear to lack form and direction but with a little patience, the reader will be richly rewarded. As the child grows up, he learns (and so does the reader) more of the grim realities of life in Northern Ireland, the tragedies that befall his family (past and present) and the secret of betrayal that threatens the bond between him and his parents. It's a testament to Deane's talent that the book reads easily, yet some scenes - a hike up the hills or a touch of the father's hand - can be so beautifully rendered and moving. Get past the early chapters and you won't be disapponited.
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Reading in the Dark
Reading in the Dark by Seamus Deane (Paperback - 1997)
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