It took less than six months for everything to fall apart.
That’s how Darling, a debut novel by Rachel Edwards opens. From the start it plays out that things are going to be bad. But I wasn’t able to guess how!
Darling was a confusing read for me. It started like a contemporary novel between people of different classes & races exploring racism and a possible step daughter – step mother clash. Somewhere after the second half of the book, it started to transform into a thriller, driving to an insane ending.
Darling is a black nurse, caring for her disabled son of 5 year old, who has a rare disease. She marries with Thomas, after a lightning speed romance, in 3 months. Thomas’s teenage daughter Lola isn’t a fan of this marriage. And as you can imagine Lola and Darling start clashing.
Darling is a novel about race.
I had learned from a young age that there were those who would look at me and assume I was poorer, less intelligent, less cultured, a quandary solved upon sight; sexually incontinent, insanitary, ill-mannered and ill-educated for good measure. Not everyone, not most , even. But for those who saw colour and wanted you to know it, these were the cudgels with which they daily tried to crack your thick black skull.
Through out the novel there are smears of race-related controversy, however the way the plot shapes fails to put this into focus – I can’t reveal the story but let me say some other things come up, and race subject suddenly stop being important. There are also mentions of Brexit, but it is far from being a player in this story.
My first problem with Darling was Thomas. We are told Thomas and Darling have met and married in 3 months and crazy in love. But like the absence of Thomas’s name in Darling’s blurb, his character in the novel has a similar fate. He is absent. We are expected to accept that a well of man of middle-class spontaneously marries to a character of different background. There is no foundation of Thomas’s and Darling’s romance.
Second issue was Lola sections. The novel is told from Lola’s and Darling’s view points and switches between characters. But oh boy, how difficult it was to follow when Lola started telling her side of things. I understand Lola bits were supposed to reflect a teenager girl, but according to her GCSE results and intellectual level Lola should have been a better thinker. Her blabbering was just so choppy and difficult to read. I felt too much stereotyping in Lola sections. Teenagers might be texting and speaking to each other in their teenage way but I don’t think their inner voices are like that.
childhood is the only thing that has ever happened to me. There is something that has stayed with me, this whole time.
There are bits of Lola speaking with wisdom, like the one part above, but they are rare through out the novel.
Overall a 3 stars from me. I think the idea in the novel was great, but there were problems with execution. I really appreciate Edward’s idea, especially after Brexit we all feel same frustration. But the story cannot escape to get overcrowded by issues of racism, class difference, disability and mental illness. I felt like if it just stuck to only one of these subjects it would have been much better. I would like to read from Edwards again.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC in exchange for an honest review