• Title: The Darlings
  • Author: Angela Jackson
  • Publisher: Eye Books on June 21, 2021
  • Genre: Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages: 267
  • Formats Available: Paperback & Digital
  • Rating: 4/5

Trigger Warnings: Adultery, Past Drug Abuse, Eating Disorder, Difficulty Conceiving, Death of a Child, Panic Attacks, Bullying

Many thanks to Angela Jackson and Damppebbles Blog Tours for providing me with a digital copy of The Darlings with a request for an honest review.

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The Darlings Blurb


When Mark Darling is fifteen years old, he is the golden boy, captain of the school football team, admired by all who know him. Until he kills his best friend in a freak accident.

He spends the next decade drifting between the therapy couch and dead-end pursuits. Then along comes Sadie. A mender by nature, she tries her best to fix him, and has enough energy to carry them both through the next few years.

One evening, Mark bumps into an old schoolfriend, Ruby. She saw the accident first hand. He is pulled towards her by a force stronger than logic: the universal need to reconcile one’s childhood wounds. This is his chance to, once again, feel the enveloping warmth of unconditional love. But can he leave behind the woman who rescued him from the pit of despair, the wife he loves? His unborn child?

This is a story about how childhood experience can profoundly impact how we behave as adults. It’s a story about betrayal, infidelity and how we often blinker ourselves to see a version of the truth that is more palatable to us.

Provided by Damppebbles Blog Tours for Tour Use

My Review

The Darlings is one of those brilliant novels that make you think. How does your past affect your present? Angela Jackson tells us in a haunting tale of how a damaged soul continues on a path of destruction. How many lives must one destroy before he takes responsibility for his actions?

Mark Darling’s tragic adolescence haunted him all his life. His best friend dies at his hand, with the death of his parents following shortly after. It is now that Mark slips into a deadly spiral of drugs and alcohol. When he thinks he might have happiness with Sadie, a childhood friend reappears. This meeting restarts his downward spiral into deception and self-destruction. What he finds is another crutch to help him through the nightmare of his childhood.

I’m going to come right out and say it. I detested every one of these characters. There are no redeeming qualities in any of them. Mark is a complete jerk who refuses to accept responsibility for his actions. Ruby is selfish and wimpy, living only for what the man can give her. Sadie, the so-called victim in this story is a condescending harpy. She acts as if Mark should bow at her feet for being his savior. She doesn’t treat him as an equal but as a child who needs to follow her every instruction. Sadie’s father is an Al Pacino wanna-be. I couldn’t stand this man. I cringed every time he showed up in the story. The only exception to these awful characters is Ava. Ava tells it like it is. She minces no words and offers no apology for being blunt. I loved her. Ava is a refreshing breath of air in an otherwise awful cast.

Now, with the character hate out of the way, I want to say that the novel drew me in and made me want to keep reading. Jackson wrote an engaging story that another author could make a depressing mess. However, Jackson uses the dark material to provide an exciting backdrop for readers. With the repetitive theme of guilt in varying degrees, I thought I would find it annoying. But it is just the opposite. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the words.

I also must say that the ending is very satisfying. I had a feeling that Mark would rally to make good choices in the end. After all the hate I had bottled up for these people, I found myself happy with the ending. It all came together as I hoped it would. Though, Sadie’s father still made me retch.

It pleases me to award The Darlings 4 out of 5 stars. I’m not sure I read this book in the way the author meant readers to react, but in the end, I enjoyed it in my own way. If you are looking for a great contemporary piece of fiction, I recommend picking up The Darlings. 

About the Author – Angela Jackson

Angela Jackson is a former psychology lecturer and teacher trainer. Her debut novel The Emergence of Judy Taylor won the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s First Book Award and was Waterstones’ Scottish Book of the Year. 

The Darlings is her second novel. 

Originally from the north of England, she now lives with her family in Edinburgh.

Author’s Contact Links: Twitter | Website | Instagram

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