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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Destructive Power of Passive Aggression
With a brilliant Dickensian introduction, the narrator leads you into the lives of domestic worker Mona, Charles, the elderly man she cares for, and his daughter Dora who employs her. The relationship between the two women starts with good intentions on both sides, but deteriorates as jealousy, envy and passive aggressive behaviour interfere. The affects of their...
Published 22 months ago by Ms T

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Modern slavery
The story covers domestic workers from abroad and their treatment (ill treatment in this case) by British employers. The tale is told alternately by Dora (the employer) and Mona (the Moroccan employee)which works well as a narrative device. She has been employed to look after Dora's ageing father who has dementia but quickly becomes the house slave.
Whilst I could...
Published 21 months ago by Blue Moon


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Destructive Power of Passive Aggression, 24 Aug. 2013
This review is from: The Darkening Hour (Hardcover)
With a brilliant Dickensian introduction, the narrator leads you into the lives of domestic worker Mona, Charles, the elderly man she cares for, and his daughter Dora who employs her. The relationship between the two women starts with good intentions on both sides, but deteriorates as jealousy, envy and passive aggressive behaviour interfere. The affects of their respective pecking orders both in the household and the outside world, of loneliness, and of estrangement from their children damage the small attempts they initially make to form a more sympathetic relationship. Dora's short temper, insecurities and snobbery destroy it altogether.
The descriptions of Deptford and The Thames (a central character in this book as in Tideline) are atmospheric and engaging despite Dora's distaste for them. And it is fascinating that the violence in Hancock's books seems to happen almost by mistake, and is perpetrated by people who are not so different from normal, warped by circumstances we are led to understand.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Dark Tale of Exploitation, 30 Aug. 2013
By 
Susie B - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Darkening Hour (Hardcover)
No spoilers.

Penny Hancock's second novel 'The Darkening Hour' tells the story of the relationship between two women, from vastly difference social circumstances, who are thrown together through need and mutual dependency. Theodora (Dora) Gentleman lives in Deptford, in a faded, but genteel Georgian house, sharing her home with her elderly father, Charles, who is suffering from dementia, and her unemployed son, Leo. Dora works for a radio station, where her goal is to host a prime time programme with large listening figures, however she cannot focus sufficiently on her career because she is struggling to cope with caring for Charles, whose condition is clearly deteriorating. Enter Mona, who has come to England from Morocco, leaving behind her ailing mother and her young daughter, in order to earn money to send home for her mother's medical expenses and her daughter's education. Mona's employment has been organised by Dora's ex-husband, Roger, who has arranged for Mona to come to England on a visa stating that she is here for domestic purposes only, and Roger tells Dora that, in effect, Mona belongs to her - she cannot switch employers and if the job doesn't work out, Mona has to be sent straight home.

After some initial wariness on both sides, Dora begins to rely heavily on Mona, who not only cares for Charles, but also cooks beautifully, cleans the house from top to bottom, and even manages to rouse Leo from the sofa and out of the house. However, it is not long before Dora becomes resentful and jealous of the effect Mona has on everything and everyone around her, and when her beloved father (who, Dora tells us, has always preferred her over her siblings) shows that he would rather have Mona's company than his own daughter's, Dora's jealousy and resentfulness grows. Mindful of the fact that she cannot now cope without Mona, Dora increases Mona's workload and insists that she becomes more subservient, treating her more like a slave than an employee, and when Dora's lover, Max, shows a passing interest in Mona, Dora's jealously and paranoia grow to an alarming level. But it is not just Dora who is feeling resentful - Mona is suffering greatly from being separated from her mother and daughter, and is feeling grossly overworked and very unappreciated, and she realizes that if she wants her life to improve, she must take action. And then one freezing cold morning, with a mist hovering over the Thames, a dead body is dragged from its icy waters. (Not a spoiler - the story begins with the discovery of this body in the Prologue of the novel).

With some atmospheric descriptions of the River Thames and of Deptford, where just a few elegant Georgian streets and St Nicholas's church remain nestled amongst a mass of concrete housing blocks and colourful ethnic street markets, this rather tense story, first-person narrated by both Dora and Mona, deftly draws the reader into the lives of the two women. Although this novel does not have quite the claustrophobic intensity of the author's debut novel:Tideline, it does have the more topical and relevant theme of the terrible plight of some migrant workers and this, I think, is the book's strength, rather than the discovery of the identity of the body in the Thames; in fact I found the last few chapters of this novel where the crime takes place and the desperate attempts to conceal the crime were the least convincing parts of the book - but I cannot explain more without including spoilers. That said, Penny Hancock's observation of middle-class conceptions and misconceptions, explored through Dora's behaviour towards Mona, the depiction of the gross exploitation of one woman by another, and the way the author explained both characters' sides of the story, made this a dark, interesting and thought-provoking read - I read the whole book in practically one sitting and reading this novel has left me thinking about Mona's situation and of other migrant workers who might find themselves trapped in a similar position.

3.5 Stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable, kept wanting to read on, 9 Jan. 2015
This review is from: The Darkening Hour (Kindle Edition)
I really enjoyed this, but I think it would have been a better novel if one of the two narrators hadn't been so awful! I found one of the two women so unlikeable from very early on that, although at times I thought the other one was possibly up to something that she hadn't let on to the reader, I didn't care if something bad did happen to the horrible one, in fact sometimes I found myself gloating at her misfortune, which is not something I would normally do! She is quite possibly suffering from some kind of mental disorder, so maybe I should have some sympathy with her, but she was so horrible that I just couldn't.

It is also a pity that most of the characters other than Mona and Theodora are not developed much at all, Theodora's siblings and Max for instance. Leo is an interesting character.

Penny Hancock should be commended on bringing the plight of domestic workers from overseas who apply to accompany their employer to the UK to a wide audience. Apparently these workers are not free to change employer; hence, as Hancock tells us at the end of the book, if they experience abuse and exploitation at the hands of their employer, they must choose between putting up with this and fleeing, thus becoming illegal.

This novel put me very much in mind of 'The Lie of You: I Will Have What is Mine' by Jane Lythell, in that there are two female narrators both telling their side of the story. Like Lythell's novel (which by the way I highly recommend), I felt that it became a bit overly-dramatic and implausible towards the end. It also called to mind 'Apple Tree Yard' by Louise Doughty (another great novel). Despite my reservations, 'The Darkening Hour' did give me a lot of reading pleasure; it's engaging, I found myself really wanting to know what happened next and looking forward to my next opportunity of reading. It's easy to read and you don't need to spend hours analysing every paragraph. Not having yet read anything else by this author, I would definitely consider doing so.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Tale Of Two Women., 9 Dec. 2013
By 
Liz Wilkins "Lizzy11268" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: The Darkening Hour (Hardcover)
A middle class woman at her wits' end.
A struggling migrant worker with few options for survival.
When tensions boil over, who will be the first to snap?
Will it be Theodora, finally breaking under the pressure?
Or Mona, desperate to find a way out?

I do love a psychological thriller and this was a great one - for once I didnt spend the entire novel waiting for a huge twist in the tale or something completely unexpected (although there was plenty of unexpected things along the way!) because I was so immersed in the differing views of these two women on their relationship - it was fascinating how they reacted to each other and to events in the story.

Dora is absolutely full of a sense of her own importance - she takes on the care of her elderly father after the death of her mother, and I really disliked her holier than thou attitude about it all. Great! We love a character who makes us mad. On the other hand she does struggle to get any free time and it is a tough job so you can kind of feel sorry for her.

Enter Mona, a migrant worker hired by Dora's ex husband to help with the care of Dad. Mona has other reasons for wanting to be in the country - she is super efficient and soon has everything running smoothly. She is also not above helping herself to bits and pieces that don't belong to her, nor to ingratiating herself with Dora's son Leo.

Initially these two think that they are helping each other...but slowly yet surely the relationship between the pair falters.

The very clever thing about this novel was looking at each event through two pairs of eyes - neither of them are utterly faultless and both have a way of making things worse through assumption. Mona's assumption that Dora won't miss a bit of face cream here and there and Dora's assumption that Mona is more slave than employee - expected to work all the hours God sends and then some, it is unsurprising that Mona feels she is entitled to something extra. But then she has other things to hide.

The story ebbs and flows in a terrific manner and the sense of place is amazing. I've tried not to give too much away on where this tale goes - it really is a journey of discovery. Jealousy, resentment, sheer audacity will take you to the ultimate outcome. And I very much enjoyed every minute of it.

Happy Reading Folks!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A riveting read, 25 Oct. 2013
This review is from: The Darkening Hour (Kindle Edition)
Just like her first novel, Tideline, The Darkening Hour really captures the atmosphere of south London and the Thames. This one is a real page turner and highlights the plight that many live-in domestic workers must face in this country. It also neatly captures how outsiders must see the English. Really interesting and definitely recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great and intelligent read, 15 Sept. 2013
This review is from: The Darkening Hour (Kindle Edition)
I hugely enjoyed this book, which pulls off with panache the difficult trick of having two separate narrators telling their own story. As the chapters alternate between Dora and her maid Mona, you find yourself permanently on edge to find how their opposing world views will collide. Like the previous book 'Tideline' one gets the tremendous feeling of a very intelligent writer with a strong message, and yet the prose is immensely readable. If I had to compare to another writer, I would say this is similar to Ian McEwan.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Well written, engaging and original, 15 May 2014
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This review is from: The Darkening Hour (Kindle Edition)
Divorced radio presenter Theodora has been persuaded by her ex husband to get a home help to assist with her teenage son who has just moved back in with her and her elderly father who has Alzheimer’s and lives in the basement flat of her house.

Mona, a woman of a similar age to Theodora is recruited from Morocco and it is not long before the dynamics are shifting in the house. But Mona has a hidden agenda. Although she needs to send money to her desperately poor mother and daughter back home, she is also trying to find her estranged husband Ali in England and whilst looking for him, she stumbles on the fact that Theodora’s last home help mysteriously disappeared.

Well written, engaging and original. Sympathies shift cleverly from one woman to the other and the backdrop of contemporary London with the theme of Thames river was nicely done. Would like to read more from this author.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent story, 21 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: The Darkening Hour (Kindle Edition)
This story is Penny Hancock's second novel and has some features that are similar to her first brilliant novel Tideline. It also is about a woman living in London near the river Thames who is delusional. This book is written alternately from the point of view of the two main female characters - Dora and her live in help Mona. The darkening in the title I assume refers to the worsening of the relationship between these two characters. The story keeps your interest throughout as you learn more about these women and their families. This story also highlights the current situation that domestic workers from abroad currently face in the UK that leaves them open to abuse by the person who brings them in to the country. Penny has a great gift of getting you inside people's heads to see why they act the way they do.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Another total page turner, 25 Jan. 2014
This review is from: The Darkening Hour (Kindle Edition)
I discovered this author through her first book, Tideline, which was easily the best novel I read that year. The follow up is equally compelling, a pacey read in contrast to some of the plodders I've made myslf wade through of late...

What I particularly liked was the way that PH makes you wonder which of her two main characters you should be siding with - overbearing Theodora or poor, downtrodden Mona. She keeps us guessing right to the end and the big reveal packs a weighty punch.

As in Tideline, PH catches the atmosphere of south east London brilliantly, this time in all its multicultural glory. Can't wait for the next one, whether similarly set or somewhere new.

Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys a dark, disturbing and deeply satisfying read!
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4.0 out of 5 stars An Intimate Cast that works well, 10 Feb. 2014
By 
Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog "Falcata T... - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Darkening Hour (Kindle Edition)
A book that was not only my usual type of reading but completely outside my comfort zone and whilst this is an unusual type of read for me, it was one I was more than happy I took the time to read as Penny brings a darkly uncomfortable time when the gaps between rich and poor were at their largest with the downtrodden struggling to make ends meet.

It’s a book that relys heavily on the characterisation and the believability of them and whilst it isn’t a huge cast, its intimacy is one that works so much better for this type of story. Add to this some rather stark reality checks for the reader as well as the characters learning to live with their latest life choices and all round it was a title that really hit home hard.
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The Darkening Hour
The Darkening Hour by Penny Hancock
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