Reading in the Dark – Seamus Deane

The BookDepository

Short Listed for the Booker Prize 1996

Reading in the Dark is set during the troubled times of Ireland, between 1945 and 1961. The story is told through the eyes of a young boy growing up within the violence, under strict Catholic parents. The unnamed boy has to deal with family secrets, and his mother becoming unable to cope with it all. Religious beliefs and superstitions play a big part in his childhood, and his innocence means that he is often left bewildered.

It is similar to Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha in many respects, but much I found it much easier to read. This is because it lacks the stream of consciousness prose found in Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha and the plot is easier to follow.

The main fault I found with the book is that it is very depressing. There is the odd glimmer of happiness occasionally, but it is quickly stamped out where-ever it tries to occur. This led to a book which I didn’t find enjoyable to read.  The plot seemed to move from one tragedy to the next and there never seemed to be any hope.

I didn’t really connect with the main character because he just seemed too caught up in his own emotions and a bit weak – I prefer my characters to have a bit of feistiness!

If you enjoyed Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha then I think you’ll love this, but it just wasn’t for me.



I think Angela’s Ashes is my favourite book set in Ireland. What is yours?

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  1. Violet says:

    I don’t mind reading depressing books, but as you said there has to be something positive or atleast some hope of it. The cover is very intriguing though.

    I LOVE Ireland, I’ve only seen it in photos though. I have a wallpaper collection of Ireland alone on my home PC. Angela’s Ashes is on my TBR. I should get to it soon.

  2. Jackie says:

    Violet – I don’t mind depressing books either, but I have to like the characters before they get depressed and have some moments of hope/happiness in the book somewhere. This book was just miserable all the way through! Angela’s Ashes is very good, although I have heard it is much better on audio.

  3. Sandy says:

    I got into a nest of depressing books on my trip…reviews to come this week and next. I don’t mind a depressing book, if there is a sliver of light to reach for, but I cannot love a book that beats me down from cover to cover, with maybe one or two exceptions. I have read Holocaust books that didn’t have much sun in them, but that is what you expect. I love the name of that book “Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha”!!!

    1. Jackie says:

      A lot of Halocaust books are too much for me, although I realise they are very important – now I know what happened I need books to have a good plot and some hope in them.

  4. Nymeth says:

    This actually caught my eye at the library the other day. I loved Paddy Clarke, so I think I’d enjoy it too. I must make sure I’m in the mood for a very sad book, though. As for my favourite book set in Ireland, I haven’t read that many, but I’ll go with The Woman Who Walked Into Doors by Roddy Doyle. It’s also very sad, but it’s hopeful at the same time.

    1. Jackie says:

      If you’re a fan of Roddy Doyle then I think you’ll love this. They are very similar. It isn’t depressing in that it will make you cry, just that there is one bad thing after another. He always seems to be looking at the negative side of things – a bit of a depressive. I just couldn’t relate to him.

  5. Jenny says:

    My people are Irish, but I have a hard time reading Irish fiction. I feel like I’m betraying the homeland – it’s like books about slavery, I just really, really struggle to get through them. One of my English classes in college read Beloved, and I got so nauseated during the discussion, when we were reading bits out loud, that I had to leave the class. And I had to stop reading Breakfast on Pluto, though I loved the movie, for the same reason.

    1. Jackie says:

      It is probably a good idea to avoid this book then. I was very affected by some of the scenes in Beloved too. One of the most shocking scenes I have ever read is in that book.

  6. Verity says:

    That looks like an interesting read. I have enjoyed Roddy Doyle, and Frank McCourt so I think I’d like that too. The library has it in the store so I shall get it out tomorrow – I’m getting a bit bored of my current run of reading women’s writing of the first half of c20!

    1. Jackie says:

      This is like the average of Paddy and Angela’s Ashes. If you enjoyed them both then you’ll love this.

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