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In a Dark Wood Paperback – 4 Jul 2011

4.9 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; New Ed edition (4 July 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857027000
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857027006
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,229,658 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

‘An intelligent and gripping novel. Wonderful, page-turning storytelling.’The Times

‘Exhibits the same incisiveness and intelligence as her acclaimed A Vicious Circle. Witty and disturbing, it is a novel of both accomplishment and charm.’ Daily Mail

‘A book within a book, a rich plot with plenty of on-the-edge-of-your-seat suspense, an abundance of quirky but believable character…’In A Dark Wood’ is an elegant anti-fairy tale for adults that keeps you guessing until the last few pages.’Daily Express

'An eerie novel full of fairy-tale menace…beguilingly told and hypnotic.' Independent on Sunday

From the Author

In a Dark Wood is, like all my novels, about the nature of creativity - in this case, about creativity, suffering and madness. That may sound like a very bleak subject, but although its plot involves suicide, divorce, manic depression and incest it is, as perceptive readers have noticed, also a black comedy. Its title is from the opening of Dante's Inferno - "Midway upon the journey of our life/I found myself lost in a dark wood", and in the case of Benedick Hunter, the narrator, he finds himself in some very dark woods indeed. At first these belong to the fairytales his dead mother retold and illustrated. It is when he finds an old book of hers, while packing up his belongings in the house he shared with his ex-wife and two children, that he is impelled to go on a quest to discover more about her. Benedick knows she committed suicide in Primrose Hill in the 1960s, but can't remember anything about her. However, each fairytale seems to give him clues about her nature, and his own, and this eventually takes him across the Atlantic to her native North Carolina, and some real woods with a pair of what his son insists are real witches.
What inspired this, the most dark and difficult of my novels to date, was noticing how often children's picture-books depict their heroes as lost in a dark wood as a metaphor for difficulty, danger, confusion and despair. The old meaning of "wood", in Shakespeare's time (see A Midsummer Night's Dream) was "madness". I was fascinated by this,and by seeing how close small children come to lunacy -and bring their parents, too, at times.
The novel was published in the UK by 4th Estate in 2000, but the Doubleday version is superior, not only in its presentation but in its editing. The US hardback has exactly the picture I wanted to have all along, and was meticulously checked, so this is the one to buy...if you do buy it.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The "Bookworms in Brussels" (a small reading group of seven women - and five different nationalities) went into "In A Dark Wood" in the deepest dark of December and came out much wiser, superbly entertained and finally ... relieved! (but I'm not allowed to say why).
The story is perfectly convincing, as are the characters. The contrast between every day's trials and tribulations, parenthood (all the mothers marvelled at the description of the two irresistible little monsters!), madness & drama and the fairy tales and poems "... and when your heart begins to fail it's like a ship without a sail..." works beautifully. The narrative is witty and full of insight, the fairy tales enchanting, the characters, whether loveable or despicable, are all very vivid. We suffered, and suffered with poor Benedick, and it is a great compliment to the author that - unless you are familiar with manic-depressive cases - you are, literally, kept in the dark until the very end. Do read it!
Inger Løvschall (a Dane in Brussels)
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Format: Paperback
Benedick Hunter is having what at first appears to be a middle-aged crisis. He's an actor who hasn't had any steady work recently. His wife is divorcing him and he bickers constantly with his pompous father. He finds little joy from taking care of his imaginative, but demanding young children. Benedick lives off from the small amount of royalties from his mother's children's books. After rediscovering one of these collection of fairy tales he begins reading the stories for deeper personal meanings. He's compelled to follow a trail of his mother's old friends who are scattered over Britain and America like a trail of breadcrumbs. The mysteries contained in her subversive fables lead him to his mother's childhood home and the truth about his family that has been hidden from him. Gradually he learns that his alienation from society and erratic behaviour has its roots in a mental illness. But he has to descend into the darkest psychological depths in order to learn how to live with this disorder.
In this beautiful and moving novel, Craig manages to write very convincingly about a man's perspective of the world. Benedick's personal aspirations are clouded by despair in a way that prevents him from also appreciating all the loving people he has in his life. Unfortunately, he has also inherited a lot of pain and bitterness from his mother's life, many of the facts of which have been hidden from him. We are also given many funny details about the cultural differences between America and England. What the author also does so extraordinarily well is show a blend of light and dark in this central character's psychology. He does a number of detestable things. Yet we are given insight into them and understand they are acts of desperation brought about through a mental illness he can‘t control.
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Format: Hardcover
I could not stop reading. The narrative drew me on from page to page. The main character's extreme unpleasantness almost turned me away but fortunately, I persisted and was well rewarded with a moving experience of the horror of depression which turns the sufferer into a beast. The author's understanding of this state is superb, and then her description of his mania which becomes interlaced with passionate love takes the reader on a journey of understanding. Well worth reading.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An unusual book, taking the reader on quite a journey, deep into the subconscious of Benedick, whose life has suddenly started unravelling at a frightening pace. His wife, Georgina is divorcing him, having found another man more to her tastes and aspirations. Benedick is an actor, and is going through a period of “resting”. Of course he loves his children, Flora and Cosmo, though he, in the way of many men, doesn’t quite know how best to handle them, and he sometimes vacillatates between benign neglect and bullying displeasure.

He is suddenly seized with the notion that he should find out more about his mother, now dead, and an author and illustrator of a series of fairy tales far from the anodyne Disney-dominated pap usually written for children. Throughout the novel he reads these to his son Cosmo (Flora is only three and they are way over her head – she prefers princesses). I was slightly put off – but as the sequence of readings progress the reader can see their strange relevance to a man who is teetering on the edge of something very scary.

I don’t want to spoil the book for other readers, but suffice to say, a revelation concerning Benedick’s health occurs as he pursues his mother’s past, visiting South Carolina, where a branch of the family now lives. The story of her life chimes with his current problems, but Craig weaves the denouement in very skilfully and the ending is one where the reader can breathe a sigh of relief.

I enjoyed this book very much indeed.
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Format: Paperback
What a wonderful writer Amanda Craig is. She is so funny, so wise, so understanding about people that I can't understand why she isn't as well-known as my other favourite women novelists. I first discovered her through A Vicious Circle, but this is also a brilliant novel. Dark and mysterious, it explores a man's descent into manic-depression and the way his son's love saves him. Set in London, New York and North Carolina, it interweaves fairy-tales, very much as Angela Carter and As Byatt have done, with the story.
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