Friday, January 27, 2012

January New Release in Review: In Darkness by Nick Lake





Bloomsbury is proud to be the global publisher of In Darkness, a stunning tour-de-force set in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake. "Shorty" is a Haitian boy trapped in the ruins of a hospital when the earth explodes around him. Surrounded by lifeless bodies and growing desperately weak from lack of food and water, death seems imminent. Yet as Shorty waits in darkness for a rescue that may never come, he becomes aware of another presence, one reaching out to him across two hundred years of history. It is the presence of slave and revolutionary leader Toussaint L'Ouverture, whose life was marred by violence, and whose own end came in darkness. What unites a child of the slums with the man who would shake a troubled country out of slavery? Is it the darkness they share . . . or is it hope?

Raw, harrowing, and peopled with vibrant characters, In Darkness is an extraordinary book about the cruelties of man and nature, and the valiant, ongoing struggle for a country's very survival.

Why I Read This:

Counts for a number of reading challenges. The cover was beautiful. The summary was exactly what I was looking for.

My Thoughts:

This is a beautiful book. It deals with extreme poverty. It deals with complexity. It deals with human emotion. And it deals with injustice. It is the kind of book that deserves...more attention, a careful study, an award.

I can't tell you how thrilled I was when I saw this one up for grabs on Netgalley. Ever since college I've been interested in learning more about Haiti. Not in that boring textbook way that tells you nothing about human emotions and motivations but rather just lists off the facts. No, if I was going to read a book about Haiti it had to be one that took human life and complexity into account. And I will tell you why. When I was in college one of my professors was from Haiti. One day she started teaching. Then she started crying. She tried to hide it and keep going but we just couldn't let her go and had to find out what was wrong. It turns out that her husband was kidnapped for ransom. And this wasn't even the first time something like this had happened. She was left all alone to deal with the pain and get her husband back. I cannot even imagine the agony she was going through. And that is why I needed this to feel real and to be truthful in ways that textbooks just can't.

The book is beautifully written. It's powerful and violent and doesn't sugar-coat anything. These are people that have seen things and have done things that are indescrible to someone like me who has lived a fairly cushy, delicate life. I felt incredibly sick to my stomach at times. Even though I did know from my studies some of the things that go on in extreme poverty, I guess I could never quite imagine them actually happening. This book made me imagine they were real. And I know...they are.

The story is part contemporary, part historical so there was a ton to learn about Haiti in this book. For the first time I found out about Toussaint L'Ouverature, Aristide, Site Soleil, and voudou (although I did know about that...this just seemed like the kind of voudou people might actually practice in Haiti).

So I'm telling you, this is a really well written book. I want to recommend it to everyone. But...I know there will be people who can't handle a lot of the things found inside the pages. If you are very squeamish then this might not be the right book for you. There is a lot of violence in it. I can't exaggerate that enough. There are very gruesome things that happen. There is also a ton of swearing. If you really hate swearing this might not be for you either. But if you think you can handle those things then I suggest you learn more about Haiti through In Darkness. I feel this is a very significant book.

Lastly, although I'd like to give this book I higher rating than I've settled on, I just can't do it. I did struggle a lot with the violence and swearing. I also have a problem with foreign languages in my books which aren't translated, leaving me guessing. Even though contextually they are explained, it always irritates me to have anything in the story that isn't translated fully back to English (this is a quirk of mine I just can't seem to get over). So yes, even though I'm highly recommending this one based on what the book is and how beautifully written and emotional it is, I am leaving this one at a 3.5/5. It's a great book! But take it or leave it at your own risk ;)  

My Rating:

3.5/5 but calendars don't come in half days.


I received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley.

This post was part of my New Year's Signature Collection event.
Watch out for more guest posts,  lists, reviews of January releases, author interviews, and more throughout January.


  1. Erika,
    I've tried to email a few times but not heard back. If you are still interested in co-hosting a hop with me in April please get in touch with me ASAP. If I don't hear back by Monday I'll assume you are no longer interested and give the spot to another blogger.

  2. Sorry Kathy! The little one is sick :( Just emailed you back.