James Darke is dreading the first family Christmas without his wife Suzy. Engulfed by grief, his grudging preparations are interrupted by a persistent knock at the door. Questions about the circumstances of his wife’s death force him to confront the outside world and what really happened to her.
Isolated, angry and diminished, James soon faces a crisis both legal and psychological. It will test his resolve and threaten his freedom.
Darke Matter is a brilliant, mordant examination of the nature and obligations of love.
Both immensely sad and extremely funny, the story wrestles with one of the great moral issues of our time.
In Darke Matter, the writer uses language like poetry, working the words in his own inimitable style. But that is not to say this book is style over substance, because it certainly is not..
Having lost his beloved wife Suzy to illness after watching her disintegrate in pain before his eyes, Dr James Darke feels obligated to ease her journey. Following her death, he retreats into himself, anxious, depressed and friendless. There is only his daughter Lucy, her husband Sam, their son Rudy and baby daughter Amelie in his life now and he hasn’t seen them for months.
Having sold his valuable Dickens collection, James starts to read Gulliver’s Travels to Rudy. Rudy wants more stories about Gulliver, so James begins to write what he imagines would be the next instalment. But his slow return to some kind of his version of normality is interrupted by the police. What do they want? Is he a criminal or simply a man for whom the love of his wife meant everything? Is he guilty or innocent or both?
Sensitive readers may well be offended by some, in fact, many of James’s musings. He is politically incorrect to a fault, commenting on nationalities with his version of wit and offence, but these are the musings of the character, not I assume of the writer. He – James – doesn’t like children (apart from Rudy), or dogs (“I detest the smelly slobbery hairy shit-slingers”), or most other people (“If I am to be in company, I much prefer my own”). He particularly dislikes poets and their sentimental rubbish. He’s not exactly deferential where religion is concerned either:
“Suzy had her own understanding of the resurrection, and of the miracle of Easter. Jesus has risen: not like a balloon, or the FTSE 500. No, he was more like a souffle, light and airy enough to ascend to heaven and be declared absolutely divine, darling. At Oxford we founded a sect, the Soufflarians, a secret sybaritic movement, the members of which would meet at our flat on Ester Sunday. Each would bring an egg and a passion fruit, the perfect symbols and ingredients, and I would make a souffle in remembrance of that miraculous event, the Easter Uprising.” A few hundred years ago, they would have burnt you at the stake for such heresy.
If I had one criticism I would say the book is a bit overlong and it is not for everyone. OK that’s two, but it certainly found its niche in me. I laughed more than cried, but the humour can be very dark. An excellent read.
Many thanks to @annecater for inviting me to be part of #RandomThingsTours.
About the Author
Rick Gekoski came from his native America to do a PhD at Oxford, and went on to teach English at the University of Warwick. In 1982, sick of lecturing, he decided to become a full-time rare book dealer, specialising in important twentieth-century first editions and manuscripts. He lives in London and spends time each year in Paris and New Zealand.