[Book Review] The Darlings by Angela Jackson

The Darlings Angela Jackson


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.

My Review of The Darlings

How would you justify infidelity? Would you even attempt to justify it? How would you react if you found out your spouse was having an affair?

Mark Darling, plagued by the tragic events of his past, found salvation in his wife Sadie. But it appears she wasn’t successful in filling in the hole in his heart because Mark is inexplicably drawn to his childhood friend, Ruby, who was present when the tragic event had occurred. Does this justify Mark’s actions?

The Darlings chooses to see things in shades of grey–just like real life is. It passes no judgement nor does it condone wrongdoing. Nobody is painted as an angel with no flaws or a hopeless person incapable of redemption. Each character has flaws and quirks that makes him or her unique.

The story realistically portrays the myriad emotions people go through when faced with tough choices, mental trauma, and a promise of something shinier and better.

The author is adept at describing scenes in a fluid, effortless manner. Something as small as painting a picture is elevated to a pleasurable reading experience. Mark’s ineptitude and denial, Sadie’s hopefulness, Ruby’s desperation — it’s all so vividly shown that you can’t help but feel present in the story.

The characterization of Ava and Michael as 15-year-olds who are beginning to explore relationships while navigating the minefield of school peer pressure and bullying is spot on.

The Darlings is at once gritty and dreamy, if that’s even possible. What struck me was how cleanly the author was able to demarcate the stories of Sadie, Ruby, and Mark even though their lives are intertwined.

I felt myself respond with anger and disappointment at the choices the characters made, especially Mark, and I think only an excellent author has the ability to do that. It’s also amazing that she was able to prevent her personal opinions from influencing the path the characters in the book take.

The Darlings is a refreshing change from the stories that attempt to deliver a moralistic judgment. Although the author has offered a concrete ending to the story, it seemed to me that there was still space for things to change in the future. It has a “We’ll see how it goes” vibe and I like that very much!

(I received an e-copy of the book from Damp Pebbles Blog Tours with a request for an honest review.)

(This post is also part of Blogchatter Half Marathon.)

About Angela Jackson

Angela Jackson is a former psychology lecturer and teacher trainer. Her debut novel The Emergence of Judy Taylor won the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s First Book Award and was Waterstones’ Scottish Book of the Year. 

The Darlings is her second novel. 

Originally from the north of England, she now lives with her family in Edinburgh.

Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AngelaJ

Website: http://www.angela-jackson.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/angelaedinburgh/

Buy The Darlings

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/3cpZ7gk

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/3v3OgiD

Waterstones: https://bit.ly/3v409Vw

Hive.co.uk: https://bit.ly/34ZEaVq

Published in paperback and digital formats by Eye Books on 21st June 2021

The Darlings Blog Tour Schedule

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