When I picked up this book and read the first few pages I knew that I was in for a ‘deep read’. Deep reads, for me, are those where I cannot power ahead at my normal speed (which is quite fast). I usually find that deep reads result when a skilled writer creates sentences which I have to read twice to marvel at the wordsmithing – and this novel further supported my hypothesis. Here’s the first two sentences: “In the year 0, by a remarkable coincidence, our Lord Jesus Christ was born. If that’s not sufficient enough to shuffle your coils, his mother proclaimed herself a virgin.“
Darke Matter follows James Darke after the death of his wife. Unbeknownst to me – James Darke is a character from one of Gekoski’s earlier works “Darke”; I am happy to report having no knowledge of the character prior to my reading of this book did not make me feel at a disadvantage.
The novel was also topical for me at the time of reading, coming so soon after New Zealanders voted in support of the End of Life Choice Bill as the book holds the matter of supported dying at its core.
Our protagonist is a gruff and sometimes grim offering – it tells much about him that he is a retired teacher. Gekoski skilfully develops him (and his dead wife) through the course of the novel, mainly through interactions with family and friends. I found myself amused as my opinion of him (and his wife) swung often as I moved through the book and I enjoyed the journey that the author sent me on.
The accuracy and depth or feelings sometimes made me feel like I was reading someone’s diary, or privy to their innermost thoughts. At times it was (pleasantly) challenging and disarming. It also at times challenged me to reconsider some of my preconceived ideas – which (I think) is always a good thing!
Whilst this book was enjoyable it did require effort, and as such is not what I’d recommend as an easy holiday read. However, if you love novels focused on character development and enjoy the skills of talented novelists, a slower pace, and don’t mind a little darkness in your reading then I’d guess that this would be right up your alley.
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