The Darling

Banks, Russell. The Darling. New York: Harper Collins, 2004.

I hate using words like “gripping” and “suspense-filled” to describe a book, but this time I can’t help it. The Darling was both of those things and much, much more. Once I started reading it I dropped every other book and concentrated on devouring the words of Russell Banks. While his plots are always over the top I like that hairy edge of reality and suspension of belief.

It’s a political thriller, a sweeping epic spanning the decades of one woman’s life, and a social commentary on Africa, racism and greed. It’s all of these things. Dawn Carrington is Hannah Musgrave who is also “Scout.” Dawn/Hannah/Scout is a woman with a past as complicated as her many names. Brought up by affluent, almost snobby parents as Hannah she is drawn to the underworld of political terrorism as Dawn. On the run after being indicted for a bombing gone bad, Dawn flees to Liberia and, by marrying a government official, becomes Missus Sundiata, her fourth recreation. Told from future to past and back again Dawn/Hannah takes you on her unapologetic journey through deceit, corruption, power and humanity.

Part of the reason why I liked The Darling so well is because it was written by a man. Russell Banks is able to capture the voice of a woman as a wife, mother, and an individual fiercely protective of her independence and individuality. Even if she doesn’t know who she really is. The first person voice is reminiscent of Barbara Kingsolver’s Taylor Greer or Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid.

Favorite lines:
“I was not a natural mother. Was not programmed like most women with a mother’s instincts and abilities…It’s as if I was, and still am, missing the gene” (p 171).
“But how I wished I were invisible. My white skin was a noise, loud and self-proclaiming” (p 177).
“I woke just before dawn with a boulder of rage lodged in the middle of my chest and a desire to break someone’s skull with it” (p 236) – that sounds like something I would say!
“That’s the real American Dream, don’t you think? That you can start over, shape-change, disappear and later reappear as someone else” (p 255).

Another section I had a love-hate relationship with was Hannah/Dawn’s father passing away from a stroke. The detail of his death was almost too painful to read, having watched my father slip away much in the same way.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter “Men Channeling Women” (p 166).

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