The first time I heard about this book, it was because Louise O’Neill tweeted about it and I thought, well if she says it’s good, it’s got to be. And as expected, Louise was so right.
“An unforgettable thriller from an incredible new author.
Father wants sixteen-year-old Castley and her five siblings to hide from the world. Living in a falling-down house deep in the woods, he wants to bury their secrets where no-one will ever find them.
Father says they are destined to be together forever. In heaven. Father says the sooner they get there, the better.
But Castley wants to be normal. She wants to kiss boys and wear jean shorts.”
What a beautifully written book. I mean, stunning. It’s such an uncomfortable read as you hear about the planned ‘incest’ of Castley being coupled off with her own brother, the fierce love between them all as siblings, the intense religion and heart-breaking trust of their father. When you’re young, all you have to look at is your parents and this is an extreme example of reaching an age where you start to question whether they’re really right about everything…
The novel is such a lyrical one, written so delicately and so perfectly that it makes its darkness even more prominent. I could feel myself as a teenager in it, the desperation to fit in and the moment you start to draw away from your family but feel guilty for doing so, wanting to be able to return to safety at any moment. Castley feels that so intensely and it’s brilliantly portrayed as she battles her normal teenage wishes with the guilt and love for her family.
It’s not all about Castley either, I actually found her siblings far more interesting. The brother who followed his father so closely he nearly becomes him, the other brother who is so rebellious, it’s painful to watch. Another brother who chooses to punish himself. The sisters who choose either silence or a painful kind of self-preservation. The torment the children suffer is ungodly, ironically. You could see each of them flit between being fastly loyal to their father and starting to believe there is an alternative.
Their father is abhorrent but in a way, I ended up feeling sorry for them all in the end. He is cruel but obviously so tormented in his own mind, it just feels like a tragic finale for every member of the family. You learn as much from what isn’t said, as from what is.
The story was certainly disturbing, treated with such delicacy and such detail in every sentence that you were drawn into a story which felt some-what magical. A truly uncomfortable read but an incredible coming-of-age story. Haunting is the best word to describe it. Heart-breaking, touching, stunning are a few more. The writing is what makes this book, such beauty in its characters and in the storytelling, with a darkness that sends chills up your spine.
In the Dark, In the Woods by Eliza Wass is out now.