What They Do in the Dark by Amanda Coe | Paperback | Barnes & Noble
What They Do in the Dark: A Novel

What They Do in the Dark: A Novel

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by Amanda Coe
     
 

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“A terrific debut, full of energy and colour, as propulsive as a thriller.”—Guardian
In this unforgettable debut novel about the pain, joy, and occasional beauty of childhood, two girls are set on an unimaginable path. Spoiled but emotionally neglected Gemma, who seems to have everything, and semi-feral Pauline, who has less than nothing, are

Overview

“A terrific debut, full of energy and colour, as propulsive as a thriller.”—Guardian
In this unforgettable debut novel about the pain, joy, and occasional beauty of childhood, two girls are set on an unimaginable path. 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 parents’ breakup, loses herself in fantasies of meeting the child television star Lallie Paluza. 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 catalyst for the forces of the dysfunctional adult world and its impact on both girls as playground bullying escalates with terrible consequences.

Editorial Reviews

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.”
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
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.”
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.”
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.)
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:
9780393343915
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
03/18/2013
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
1,216,060
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(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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