Sad, beautiful and haunting
I’ve long felt that Amanda Craig is an under-rated writer, and am not really sure why she seems not to get the attention she deserves. In a world where almost any moderate writer is often puffed into genius by the publicity machine, it seems there may be much better writers who languish, and whose jewel like work sparkles unseen.
I think Craig is in one such: thoughtful, perceptive, creative, with a fine sense of crafting a story and interesting, layered characters.
In A Dark Wood is one of my favourite books of hers. She is a writer who often recycles her characters, so someone who was a minor (or even a major) character in one novel will appear as a major (or bit-part player) in another. Each book however stands on its own, but the Craig-aficionado will get a little frisson of extra pleasure as someone from another book makes an entrance (she cleverly uses memorable names, hence even the forgetful will get that nudge!)
I have recently read a little spate of books where writers have been weaving (or over-weaving) myth into their writing, and this has seemed gratuitous or a creative writing device, or self-indulgent. Oh that they had read Craig, and learned to do it WELL! This is an old book now, but I still think it is a powerful one, and has stayed in my consciousness.
Darker and more heartbreaking than her other books, Craig weaves powerful myths and fairy stories through the journey made by the central character, an actor coming to terms with the breakup of his marriage.
She explores, as she often does, the complex relationship between parents and children, a power struggle, held by love and need on both sides.
Initially the book seems as if this will be its major focus. Benedick, the central character, finds that the world of fairy and myth, as exemplified by his dead mother’s book, which he reads to his young son, fractures through into his own life, so that the meaning of the stories seem to be echoed in what is happening to him. As the book continues it becomes clear there is a deeper layer to the story, a dark descent into mental illness, a tragedy that has passed through the generations. Craig is both an easy, effortless read, and a profound one – and I can feel a desire to re-read her books coming on fast!
In a Dark Wood Amazon UK
In a Dark Wood Amazon USA