Darling is billed as a “reading group thriller”, which sounded a bit strange. (What *is* a reading group thriller? If I don’t have a reading group, am I still allowed to read it?) I think it just means there’s a lot of food for discussion in this book, which I suppose is true. I can certainly imagine a few debates, possibly heated, being sparked.
It’s also dubbed a “Brexit thriller”, which sounded kind of appealing and also kind of not, because if I never had to hear the word Brexit again I would be more than happy (I know, not gonna happen), but still... Brexit thriller, intriguing concept.
Anyway... Darling (who is black) and Thomas (who is white) meet by chance on the day of the Brexit result and fall in love - and marry - very quickly. There’s a major fly in the ointment, though, in the shape of Thomas’s sixteen year old daughter Lola, who doesn’t really want a new stepmother, particularly not a black one. Lola’s at pains to tell us she’s not racist (though she really kind of is - but that’s only one of many ways in which Lola is dangerously screwed up).
Lola needs to take back control. Lola needs rid of Darling.
But Darling is a nurse, a caregiver - single parent to a disabled son, the adorable Stevie - and she’s sure she can win Lola over with enough lovingly prepared meals and patience.
Then again, Darling has her secrets, too.
Narrated alternately by Darling and through Lola’s notebooks, the voices of both characters are compelling and the tension builds throughout.
I’m not sure about “Brexit thriller”, but the book certainly does evoke the landscape of post-referendum Britain and its newly emboldened racists - here, a toxic far-right group of idiots calling itself Bright New Britain (the BNP, basically, with a dollop of UKIP and the EDL thrown in for bad measure), with whom Lola gets somewhat embroiled. All of this is sadly only too believable.
Darling is a superbly crafted story which immediately drew me in, and never felt predictable - whenever I thought I knew where the plot was going, I was invariably wrong, and the end is surprising. Rachel Edwards deftly led me down several wrong turns in the process.
A very, very impressive debut which I would highly recommend.
Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review.