What They Do in the Dark

Amanda Coe. Norton, $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-393-08138-1
It begins for 10-year-old Gemma Barlow, almost mockingly as it turns out, with another one of her “perfect Saturdays,” a languid day of swimming and hot chocolate and comics and sweets. Very soon, however, this insistently bleak debut by British television writer Coe launches a snowball of dysfunction and trauma that culminates in a horrific gut-punch climax. In a 1970s northern English town, Gemma lives a coddled life, but when her parents separate and she and her mother move in with her mother’s boyfriend, her world is knocked askew. Gemma’s life still seems enviable to classmate Pauline Bright, though, who endures chaos and neglect at home. As the two girls fall into each other’s sinking spirals, the arrival in town of Gemma’s idol, child star Lallie Paluza, to film a movie, acts as a catalyst not for a happy reversal but for a culmination of sufferings. Although the perspective of the book, even when narrated by Gemma, doesn’t feel particularly childlike, a sense of powerlessness and half-awareness of adult events and motivations feels authentic and heightens the tension. Coe plots these ruined childhoods in a convincing fashion, including everything from drugs to divorce to molestation, without a heavy hand. She has an adept eye for psychological progression, but her unsparingly dreary vision makes for tough going. Agent: Anna Webber, United Agents, U.K. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/30/2012
Release date: 03/01/2012
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-0-393-08343-9
Paperback - 250 pages - 978-1-84408-707-5
Paperback - 250 pages - 978-0-393-34391-5
Paperback - 250 pages - 978-1-84408-706-8
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