What They Do in the Dark

What They Do in the Dark

1.9 15
by Amanda Coe
     
 

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An unforgettable debut about the pain, joy, and occasional beauty of childhood and its nearly unspeakable dangers.Like Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin and Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend, this gripping novel pulls you toward its unimaginable climax and will leave you haunted and heartbroken.Spoiled but emotionally neglected Gemma, who seems

Overview

An unforgettable debut about the pain, joy, and occasional beauty of childhood and its nearly unspeakable dangers.Like Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin and Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend, this gripping novel pulls you toward its unimaginable climax and will leave you haunted and heartbroken.Spoiled but emotionally neglected Gemma, who seems to have everything, and semi-feral Pauline, who has less than nothing, are two very different ten-year-old girls growing up in a tough Yorkshire town in the 1970s. Pauline longs for the simple luxuries of Gemma’s life: her neatly folded socks and her clean hair. Gemma, upset by her parent’s breakup, loses herself in fantasies of meeting the child television star Lallie. When Lallie shoots a movie in their hometown, Gemma and Pauline grab the chance for their wildest dreams to come true. But the film becomes a terrible catalyst for the larger forces acting on the two girls, a dysfunctional adult world that trickles down to the children; and playground bullying escalates, with dreadful consequences.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
It begins for 10-year-old Gemma Barlow, almost mockingly as it turns out, with another one of her “perfect Saturdays,” a languid day of swimming and hot chocolate and comics and sweets. Very soon, however, this insistently bleak debut by British television writer Coe launches a snowball of dysfunction and trauma that culminates in a horrific gut-punch climax. In a 1970s northern English town, Gemma lives a coddled life, but when her parents separate and she and her mother move in with her mother’s boyfriend, her world is knocked askew. Gemma’s life still seems enviable to classmate Pauline Bright, though, who endures chaos and neglect at home. As the two girls fall into each other’s sinking spirals, the arrival in town of Gemma’s idol, child star Lallie Paluza, to film a movie, acts as a catalyst not for a happy reversal but for a culmination of sufferings. Although the perspective of the book, even when narrated by Gemma, doesn’t feel particularly childlike, a sense of powerlessness and half-awareness of adult events and motivations feels authentic and heightens the tension. Coe plots these ruined childhoods in a convincing fashion, including everything from drugs to divorce to molestation, without a heavy hand. She has an adept eye for psychological progression, but her unsparingly dreary vision makes for tough going. Agent: Anna Webber, United Agents, U.K. (Mar.)
The Times
“One of the most compelling novels published this year... Its savage wit and transporting eye for detail are the things that keep you along for the ride.”
Sunday Times
“One of the most masterly, disturbing pieces of fiction I have read in a long while... will leave you haunted long after you've read the final page.”
The Guardian
“Despite the undercurrents of violence and sex, this is really a story about character: how childhood innocence is lost, cynicism gained, morality discovered and then, perhaps, lost again… a terrific debut, full of energy and color; as propulsive as a thriller.”
The Daily Mail
“...superbly plotted, building, from seemingly disparate elements, with a dread inevitability to a tense and shocking finale.”
Marie Claire UK
“[An] impressive debut… A dark, disturbing look at a 1970s childhood, as a tetchy relationship between two schoolgirls culminates in a truly shocking ending.”
The Atlantic
“This arresting and disturbing debut novel focuses on two 10-year-old girls in a gritty 1970s Yorkshire town... Coe has many credits as a screenwriter, so the tight structure and exquisite tension-building throughout might be expected, but her pitch-perfect, unsentimental evocation of the pleasures, confusions, yearnings, and vulnerabilities of girls is what makes this a stunningly accomplished novel.”
The Times (UK)
“One of the most compelling novels published this year... Its savage wit and transporting eye for detail are the things that keep you along for the ride.”
Shelf Awareness
“This darkly funny, sordid, brutally honest concoction comes to a conclusion that nobody could predict, yet it could not have ended any other way, given what happens to Gemma and Pauline as their lives intertwine in a downward spiral toward disaster.”
Sunday Times (UK)
“One of the most masterly, disturbing pieces of fiction I have read in a long while... will leave you haunted long after you've read the final page.”
The Guardian (UK)
“Despite the undercurrents of violence and sex, this is really a story about character: how childhood innocence is lost, cynicism gained, morality discovered and then, perhaps, lost again… a terrific debut, full of energy and color; as propulsive as a thriller.”
The Daily Mail (UK)
“...superbly plotted, building, from seemingly disparate elements, with a dread inevitability to a tense and shocking finale.”
Reader's Digest UK
A brilliant novel… The first half of the book is pure delight… But in the second half, you gradually realize this is not a gentle comedy at all. Indeed, the last 20 pages are among the most horrifying I have ever read.— A. N. Wilson
The Guardian(UK)
“Despite the undercurrents of violence and sex, this is really a story about character: how childhood innocence is lost, cynicism gained, morality discovered and then, perhaps, lost again… a terrific debut, full of energy and color; as propulsive as a thriller.”
Reader's Digest UK - A. N. Wilson
“A brilliant novel… The first half of the book is pure delight… But in the second half, you gradually realize this is not a gentle comedy at all. Indeed, the last 20 pages are among the most horrifying I have ever read.”
A. N. Wilson - Reader's Digest UK
“A brilliant novel… The first half of the book is pure delight… But in the second half, you gradually realize this is not a gentle comedy at all. Indeed, the last 20 pages are among the most horrifying I have ever read.”
Kirkus Reviews
Whatever they do in the dark, Coe makes it clear there's plenty of darkness in which to do it. At the center of the novel is Lallie Paluza, a pre-pubescent star on the British telly in the mid '70s. Lallie is undeniably talented, doing an assortment of impressions as well as a kind of Vaudevillian farce in her popular sitcom, and some of her most ardent fans are about her age. Primary among these fans (it's good to remember that "fan" derives from "fanatic") are Pauline Bright and Gemma, who follow every show with breathless excitement. Pauline is a "bad" girl from the wrong side of the tracks. She comes from a family notorious for producing petty criminals, and she seems heading in the same direction, for she lies, fights, skips school and swears with abandon. Gemma, in contrast, comes from a more genteel family, but one that's emotionally distant and dysfunctional (as Tolstoy might remind us) in its own way. Lallie-fever gets unbearably intense when the girls find out that she will be coming to their bleak Yorkshire town to shoot a movie. Not only do they hope to meet her, they also hope to get bit parts in the film. Coe switches narrators from the naïve and somewhat prim Gemma to a neutral, third-person voice that introduces us to an eccentric cast of supporting characters such as Frank, Lallie's febrile and twitchy manager, who wonders what will happen to his own professional life when Lallie hits adolescence; Katrina, Lallie's stage mother, who both protects and exploits her daughter; Vera, an aging actress who resents being upstaged by a 10-year-old; and Quentin, a sex-obsessed American producer who's trying to decide whether Lallie would be right for a part in The Little Princess. A rich novel that explores the "darkness" of social dysfunction both in 10-year-olds and in the adult world.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393081381
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
03/19/2012
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
8.40(w) x 5.80(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Amanda Coe is a screenwriter and filmmaker whose television credits include the British series Shameless. She is the author of a collection of stories, A Whore in the Kitchen, and the novels The Love She Left Behind and What They Do in the Dark. She lives in London with her husband and two children.

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What They Do in the Dark 1.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
thewanderingjew More than 1 year ago
The book takes place over the summer months of 1975. A child star, Lallie Paluza, is filming a movie about a young girl’s encounter with a pedophile, which has disastrous consequences. Concurrently, another story is playing out. Two ten or eleven year old schoolgirls, Pauline and Gemma, from two completely different walks of life, develop and odd relationship which barely resembles friendship. Most of the characters featured, in both narratives, seem severely dysfunctional in some way or to be the product of deviant backgrounds or lifestyles. They have little regard for the consequences of their actions and believe the means justifies the ends. Parental influence, when featured, is almost negligible or negative Pauline is penniless; she lives in a state of open depravity in a home filled with an odd assortment of relatives and visitors. She is exposed to a lifestyle far beyond her years without the mental or emotional capacity to process it. Her mom is in and out of jail, as a lady of the night. Pauline can be cruel and completely ungovernable. She does as she pleases, when she pleases. She has no guidance and has no moral compass. She seems to have no conscience. She is streetwise and a bully. Gemma lives with her mom and her mom’s boyfriend, in a good neighborhood with many advantages, but she misses her dad. On the outside, she appears to be living in a healthy, wholesome environment. She is obsessed with her adoration for the child star, Lallie. Under her goody two-shoes personality there lurks a subtle mean or angry core that shows itself with surprising vehemence. She is a seething combination of confused emotions. This novel is very unsettling. The subject matter that is hinted at, as the story moves back and forth from the movie set to Pauline and Gemma, is often unnerving. Underneath the main storyline the reader may anxiously feel a suspicion that there is a more than a casual relationship between the storyline of Lallie Paluza and that of Gemma and Pauline. About halfway through the novel, the narratives actually intersect for awhile, as the movie crew comes to town to choose extras for the Lallie Paluza movie. As I read, I always had the feeling of an unknown dread, an unspoken violence that was lurking beneath the dialogue. The storyline in the Gemma/Pauline chapters is very easy to follow and effortlessly holds the readers interest, but the switch to the story about Lallie sometimes feels disjointed and is not always a smooth enough transition to make the reader aware immediately that the venue has changed. Often it is hard to figure out which character is being featured and in what story the character plays the part. That was the weakest part of the novel since it was not as engaging. I received this book from Goodreads. For a first novel, the author has done an excellent job of putting pen to paper. It is creative and well written. Most of the important characters are well defined and although the reader might not want to picture the scenes because of their nature, the author does a good job of painting them for the imagination.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is beautifully written. The characters are Completely believable. As I read it I had some sort of an idea what might be coming but nothing prepared me for the ending, I actually closed my eyes and had to stop reading for moments. It truly is a shocking and heartbreaking ending that will stay with you long after you have finished reading it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Worst book I've ever read - cannot believe I spent money on this - don't remember where I read a good review but it was absolutely a miserable read! Don't buy it - don't waste time and $$ on it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A horrible read.
RustyEB More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be extremely boring. I was always wondering when something was ever going to happen. When it finally did at the very end, it was absolutely disgusting and I am very disappointed that I wasted my time reading this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BORING, WASTE OF MY TIME AND MONEY. THE BOOK JUMPS ALL AROUND AND SEEMS TO LEAVE A HUGE PART OF THE STORY OUT.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Please don't buy and/or read this book. There is nothing edifying or redeaming in this book. It will leave you with an awful feeling about all characters involved. A shame that this could pass for any form of entertainment. I really should have just stopped reading it somewhere in the middle. I'm sorry that I didn't.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book started out promising but then spiderwebbed into numerous dead-ends. The ending was disgusting, pointless, and disturbing. Huge disappointment. I kept thinking the storyline would come together and climax and it never did.
bigbox2610 More than 1 year ago
I don't ever remember a book that I could not wait til the end. It was absolutely one of the top 10 worst books I ever read. Probably #1. That smell from Pauline, I think it was the story. Wish I could get my gift card back. I can't believe I spent it on this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was so mad that I spent money on this - it was one of the worst books I've ever read - the ending was completely horrible and didn't even follow the book - very confusing how it was written - a complete waste of my time - I wish I could get my money back.
Ann_B More than 1 year ago
I did finish reading the whole thing, so it definitely kept my interest. A couple of things, however, disappointed me. Since the story is told from the points of view of different characters, I did get confused one or two times as to which character's story we were seeing. That pulled me out of the tale until it got figured out. The second, I was expecting a more intense story. It just felt a little flat and distant to me. Too many scenes of unhappy characters whining about their unhappy lives. I also expected more detail at the end in regards to the fates and especially feelings of the main characters after their horrible deed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although the characters were well written the story was disjointed and boring when not focusing on pauline and gemma. And i felt the ending was completely random. Wish i wouldnt have wasted my time and money.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
How could you!!!!!!!!%-3728+kwk+kekeosoqo