A review of Darling, by Rachel Edwards
Ooooo this was a goodie! A proper page turning, couldn’t put it down, thriller!
The truth is, I wouldn’t have read anything by Rachel Edwards before I recently committed to a year of reading books written only by authors of colour. The reason is simply because I’d never heard of her. (Which is a tragedy, by the way, because she’s awesome.) It makes me think, even as an English graduate and dedicated bookworm…….how many Black, British authors do I know? How many can I name off the top of my head? How many did I study at school or university? I’m ashamed of myself for this, not least because I didn’t even notice the white centrism in my own reading.
And that, dear reader, is another sign of systemic racism.
But. This is changing. The world is waking up to the imbalances in many aspects of our lives. I’m discovering a huge wealth of new authors and fabulous new reads. I hope you are too and I hope you’ll share with me your points of view and recommendations.
Anyway, to the book!
Like with all good thrillers (and I’m a bit of a thriller junkie, I must admit), you never know quite what’s going on in this book. Who should you trust? Who’s telling the truth? Are things really what they seem? It’s the unanswered questions that keep you flicking those pages like there’s no tomorrow.
Darling is told from two very different and very clear points of view. Two distinct voices, each one believable and not quite likeable. Darling herself, a Black woman, living in London, who has recently found love with a white man, Thomas. And Lola, Thomas’s privileged and complex teenage daughter who is working through therapy as she grieves the death of her mother.
As Darling’s story unfolds, of meeting a great guy, who sweeps her off her feet, whisks her into his beautiful home, cares for her oh-so-cute physically disabled son, Stevie, and revels in her Jamaican cooking, you immediately know that something is not quite right. This is a thriller after all, not a cheesy love story.
As we get to know Lola, through the “Done Lists” she writes for her therapist, you also know that she is probably not going to turn out to be the viscous, spoiled, nasty young woman we’re led to believe. Life is complicated. Teenage lives even more so. Especially when they’re mourning their mother. Lola is not a simple character, and she makes the book all the more rich and textured for it.
And yet, Darling and Thomas seem to have a marvellous time, falling further and further in love, getting married and committing to making their new mixed-race and blended family work. Lola continues to be a pain in the arse, with her bitterness, white supremacy and petty obsessions with her equally precosious friends and boyfriends.
That feeling of discomfort continues though. We just know things aren’t what they seem. Darling’s empathetic nature, built from a life time of nursing and commitment to “love” is revealed to have some very sinister implications. And Lola’s teenage naivety has some truly horrible consequences, not least for herself.
I’ll leave it there, because I don’t want to give too much away. Needless to say there are some nasty surprises, some unexpected mistakes made by the characters, and some strange and unnerving secrets revealed.
Moving away from the (excellent) plot, there are some important themes in this book, too. Very real themes that we live with every day. Racism – both overt and unconscious, the increase in racial intolerance in Britain, given permission to grow through Brexit (this particular issue is something Rachel Edwards herself experienced and it gave her the motivation to publish this novel). It uncovers the impact of abuse, the common and conjoined issues of mental health, grief, trust, sexual exploitation and online safety. It’s a big list of big topics, and they’re weaved through the plot with creativity, sensitivity and gravitas.
If you have a daughter, this book bares some uncomfortable truths about the dangers they’ll face in their teenage years. If you’ve suffered the death of a loved one, the emotional pain that Lola privately endures will resonate with you. If you’ve ever felt out of control, frightened and like you’re losing your mind – this book demonstrates how one thing can very easily lead to another, until your whole world is one giant, complicated, terrifying mess.
For me, a great book entertains you, informs you and holds a mirror up to society. Rachel Edwards does all of these things in Darling.
This is another heartfelt recommendation from me – if you like a page turner with a bit of bite – you’ll love this.
Find out more about Rachel Edwards here and let me know what you think, I always love to hear from you.