I am extremely excited to be bringing you this review as part of the blog tour hosted by DampPebbles to celebrate The Darlings by Angela Jackson. I was provided a free ARC of this book in return for an honest review, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
This book sounded very intriguing to me, I do enjoy literary fiction now and again but my go to reads tend to be romance or thrillers. However this one stood out as an interesting premise..... lets get stuck in!
Published in paperback and digital formats by Eye Books on 21st June 2021
THE DARING NEW NOVEL FROM THE AUTHOR OF THE EMERGENCE OF JUDY TAYLOR
When Mark Darling is fifteen years old, he is the 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 schoolfriend, 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.
I was intrigued by this story because of the subject matter, I wanted to know how such a traumatic childhood event could potentially shape a person and lead them to make the decisions they make in later life. I wondered whether or not I would have sympathy for Mark or whether I would dislike him due to his actions with both Sadie and Ruth.
I will admit I am a pretty black and white person, one of the things I really hate is infidelity. I have always been of the opinion that if you want to cheat on someone then you should not be with them. I have always said to my hubby that I would prefer him to leave me rather than cheat on me. However I am also open to being given another side and seeing what reasons people have for their actions, whether I agree with them or not.
I fully anticipated that I would not like Mark and have no sympathy for him despite his demons, and at the beginning I did find him a little onerous, he seemed very weak willed and extremely selfish, I guess from his past experiences. It frustrated me that he could walk into another woman's arms when his life seemed so good with Sadie, he definitely had a case of the 'grass is greener' elsewhere even though he had a very good life and was happy with her. I think the only thing that stopped me hating him too completely was that he honestly seemed to still love Sadie and his life with her. She had helped him through so much and they had built a strong foundation which was his crutch that kept him afloat. But then there was Ruby who seemed to be a case of 'what if' the life he could have had if he had not shut down after the death of his best friend. The fact that he genuinely had such strong depth of feeling for both women redeemed him slightly to me although I was still frustrated with his inability to decide what he wanted.
The supporting characters in the story were fantastic also. Obviously there were Sadie and Ruby, both strong women who knew their mind and what they wanted (namely a life with Mark) however Ruby did irritate me by the end, she seemed very naive and her assumptions of what Mark could do seemed unrealistic given the situation, but I suppose when you love someone logic can go out of the window somewhat! The main star of the supporting cast though has got to be Ava, Sadies younger sister, her straight talking, on the nose attitude was such a breath of fresh air, she brought sense, humour and sometimes sadness to the story and she and her parents fleshed out the story nicely to show how the wheels will still keep turning even when Mark was completely consumed in his own drama. Also the storylines of his fledging comedy career, his current workplace and his other friends from school gave the story a good amount of side information to keep everything flowing and interesting.
I think the story was a clever one, Angela Jackson managed to make me feel almost sorry for Mark and that is no mean feat given my general stance! However I know there are always two sides to a tale and we see all sides in this story.
This was a great piece of writing, Angela writes a refreshing and stark portrayal of a deeply traumatised individual whose past experience shapes his life and decisions in the future, she uses humour and emotion to draw us in to a web of love, betrayal, self worth and deceit. A rash decision that has huge consequences for all involved. I look forward to reading more work from her.