I feel like I have been familiar with the characters from The Darlings for some time even though the book is just out this week. Quite a few years back now, I heard Angela Jackson read some extracts from the book at a Blackwell’s Writers at the Fringe event. Then four years ago, Angela put on a fabulous and witty one woman show in Waterstones as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It was called The Darling Monologues and in it she played three women, Sadie and Ruby who we meet in this book, and Lily from her debut award winning novel, The Emergence of Judy Taylor. The three characters all gave us their perspective on Mark Darling, the protagonist of this book, but we didn’t get to hear from him. Now we have!
And do you know, it turns out that I don’t like Mark Darling very much. Mark has been haunted by a childhood accident when he killed his best friend. This has led him to having all kinds of insecurities and guilt throughout his life. Although his wife, Sadie, has done so much to reassure him and encourage him, when he meets an old friend from school, Ruby, he feels that she alone understands him, having actually been present when the accident took place. They begin a relationship and Mark convinces himself that he is not hurting anyone, despite his wife being pregnant with a much wanted baby. If he can just keep the two parts of his life separate, all will be well…
Despite not having an awful lot of sympathy for Mark and his predicament, I did very much enjoy this book. Angela Jackson writes very insightfully about human dilemmas and frailties and certainly doesn’t shy away from showing all the flaws in her characters. Through some of the other characters, notably Sadie’s young sister Ava, some lighter moments are introduced into the book. With themes of betrayal and guilt, this could be quite a dark book but with the author’s deft touch it is a compelling read as she brings her characters to life. I may not have liked Mark much, but I’m glad to finally have had the chance to read his story.
From the back of the book
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 school friend, 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.
Thanks to Kelly at Love Books Tours for the invitation to take part in the blog tour and to Hannah Hargrave at Eye & Lightning for sending me an early copy of the book. The Darlings is available now in ebook and paperback formats. You’ll find buying links on the publisher’s website here or you can buy a Kindle copy here.
About the author
Angela Jackson is a former psychology lecturer. Her debut novel The Emergence of Judy Taylor won the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s First Book Award in 2013 and was Waterstones’ Scottish Book of the Year. She lives in Edinburgh.