Book Review: What They Do In the Dark [will forever baffle you] by Amanda Coe

What They Do In The Dark – Amanda Coe

This is a very difficult book to review. To do so properly would mean having to reveal the ending, which would spoil the book for any potential reader as, I suppose, the way in which the story unfolds is what makes it all the more intriguing.

Having said this, I’m not sure if having a shocking conclusion galvanises the entire story into goodness. I’m not sure the ending is enough. For much of the time I was reading this book, I didn’t know what it was I was reading, where the story was going. You’ll find that any review of this book you may come across, including the blurb itself, is deliberately vague. I personally feel that this prevents you from anchoring your thoughts properly and therefore your reading becomes less focused.

Before I carry on, I should say that I actively despise this book cover. Horrendous choice. Just thought I should put that out there.

This book is about two young girls living in northern England (Yorkshire) in the 1970s. One, Gemma, lives a fairly privileged middle class life and the other, Pauline, lives in squalor amongst family members who barely register her existence. Into this story enters Lallie, a child film star who Gemma is obsessed with and whose new movie is being filmed on location at Gemma and Pauline’s school. Rude and unkempt, Pauline is a product of her surroundings, and Gemma, her mother’s child, is a pig-tailed picture of manners. An unlikely pair, a relationship of bare tolerance develops between the two, resulting in consequences that no one sees coming.

There is abuse in this book (I thought I’d help you frame your reading with this little bit of contextual information); different kinds of abuse, but abuse nonetheless. Experienced by all three girls. This is alluded to without being presented outright, which is all the more reason why the explicitness of the ending comes as even more of a shock. And the ending is the least predictable one I have ever come across. I was so troubled by it that I had to actually put the book down for minutes at a time, unable to finish a particularly disturbing sentence.

This book really made me ponder the fragility of a child’s mind, how malleable it is. How impressionable. How a child’s process of rationalisation can be so off key. How one, small decision can alter the lives of many forever. How you will never know what one is capable of doing in the dark.