Friday, 14 June 2013

Carnegie Review - In Darkness, by Nick Lake

In Darkness is dark. That's worth saying up front. The story of Shorty, a fifteen year-old boy buried beneath rubble following the 2010 Haitian earthquake, this book doesn't pull any punches. The voice is contemporary, easy to relate to. It's also gritty and honest, and takes an often brutal look at what life in Haiti is like for a boy as he grows up.

Trapped under the rubble, Shorty starts to dream and hallucinate about the life of Toussaint l'Ouverture, a slave turned revolutionary living in Haiti 200 years ago. And before long, Toussaint starts to dream of a boy trapped beneath rubble in a future Haiti. Both men are determined to change their lives - Toussaint is driven by a need to free himself and others from slavery, and Shorty by a need to find his sister, kidnapped in a gang attack that killed his father.

There are scenes in this book that made me want to look away - when Shorty kills his first man aged just twelve, when his father is butchered in front of him - and that's an important aspect of it, because this isn't a culture that is often examined in literature, either for children of adults, and Nick Lake immerses the reader in it completely.

In Darkness is a story with a complex structure, interweaving past and present in a tale of revenge and fate. It's a tough read, a gutsy effort, and it's just superb.

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