Sunday 14 July 2013

Review: Song in the Dark by Christine Howe

This book was just not for me. It wasn't bad. In fact, it was rather well-written. But for some reason I just couldn't connect with it. Which really surprised me because it's set in my hometown of Wollongong - a rare experience and something that I was very excited about. But even though the setting was familiar, I felt distant from the narrative and I can't quite put my finger on why.

Song in the Dark is the story of Paul, a young drug addict who does something terrible in his quest for drug money. His grandmother, Hetty, is left to reflect on her broken relationship with her grandson - when she had done nothing but love and support him. Paul is wracked with guilt at hurting the one person who has always been there for him, and his path to redemption is an interesting one.

Song in the Dark obviously deals with some very heavy issues. But it does so with respect and realism. Paul does some very bad things yet you can't help but feel for him. It's a sympathetic portrayal of addiction - something that not everyone views with sympathy. And your heart just breaks for Hetty. The sense of betrayal is gut-wrenching, and yet she still loves and hopes.

I did experience many emotions while I was reading Song in the Dark, and yet, as I've mentioned, it didn't particularly get under my skin. Perhaps it was the bleak nature. The frustration at everything going wrong. The briefness of it all. The third person perspective. I think the inconclusive ending certainly didn't help. I wanted more closure, but was just left confused. I think the writer intended it to be powerful and symbolic, but I was left wanting more.

Song in the Dark would probably be a powerful experience for many readers. It unfortunately just didn't quite hit the mark for me.

Rating: 3/5

Spoilery Talking Point
  • OK, can someone who has read the book please tell me what they thought of the ending? I can't decide. I really hope Paul and Hetty managed to reconnect and she was just dreaming, and not dead. 

Fine Print
Published: February 2013, Penguin
Source: Netgalley
Get It: Bookworld

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