One By One in the Darkness

Madden, Deirdre. One By One in the Darkness. London: Faber and Faber, 2003.

Three sisters have gathered at their childhood home in Northern Ireland for a visit. Cate, a journalist for a home/fashion magazine in London, is early for her annual visit; a detail that is not lost on older sister, Helen. Helen, a solicitor in Belfast, comes home every weekend, and Sally, the youngest and a teacher, already lives at home with their mother. None of the sisters are married. The story bounces between present day and the three sisters’s childhood in alternating chapters. Madden uses clever clues like the spelling of Cate/Kate to indicate past or present. When Kate became an adult she changed her name to Cate. So for chapters in the past it is Kate while for present-day chapters it is Cate. [As an aside, it reminded me of the movie ‘Sliding Doors.’ In one scenario Helen has cut her hair short and dyed in blonde while in another she leaves it long and dark. The difference helps the viewer tell the difference between the two story lines involving the same character.] Cate, Helen and Sally grew up in the 1960s and 70s during the Troubles and it’s this historical background that drives the present day story of the mid 1990s and the IRA ceasefire. There isn’t a plot to speak of, just the coping of four women after the death of the head of the household during the troubles. The only present day drama worth noting is Cate’s pregnancy.

Line I liked, “But she gained a dark knowledge that night which would never leave her” (p 130).

Reason read: I have read it somewhere that October is the best time to visit Ireland.

Book trivia: One By One in the Darkness was nominated for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 1997.

Author fact: Madden won the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature in 1987. The conditions of the prize? Write Irish lit (obviously) and be under 40 years of age. Interesting.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter simply called “Irish Fiction” (p 126).

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