Saturday, 17 September 2011

What They Do In The Dark by Amanda Coe

Amanda Coe is a successful television script writer, she is co-writer of Shameless and the creator of As If.  

Both of these shows are gritty, down to earth, shocking and no-holds barred viewing and her debut novel; What They Do In The Dark is exactly that too.  

If you are shocked by stories of dysfunctional families, or offended by bad language, violence and abuse then this story is probably not for you.  If, like me, you appreciate fiction that really does mirror real life, then you will most likely be hooked by this extremely written, shocking novel.

Set in Doncaster in the 1970s, the story centres around three young girls, all very different, but all linked together.   Gemma lives a fairly average life, she's clean, has pocket money and goes abroad for her holidays.

Pauline, on the other hand, comes from an infamous family.  Totally dysfunctional where violence, abuse, dirt and hunger are the norm.  Pauline's mum is often away from home, her Nan is dependent on prescription drugs and Pauline is left to fend for herself.  She is dirty, she smells, she fights and swears, and nobody likes her.

Lallie is a child star, with a weekly TV programme, an overbearing theatre mother and adored by Gemma.

This novel took my breath away at times.  Amanda Coe has created characters that are flawed so badly by life, yet are not sentimental in any way.   The writing is stark and detached, narrated by various characters with a vividness that is really outstanding.

Amanda Coe
This is a story of neglect, of betrayal and of incredible sadness and culminates in a horrific and shocking act.  Every associated character can link into the fate of the these girls, adults who are indifferent, who are selfish, or just don't see how their actions can affect the children who are in their care.

I was exactly the same age as these girls in the era that it was set. I lived just 20 minutes away from Doncaster and we often shopped there as a family.  I recognised the settings, some of the people and the air of apathy that is a theme throughout this story.

This is fiction, but could be true, it is realistic, it is hard to digest, but it really is an excellent first novel.


  1. I'm struggling with this, but I'm hanging on because the writing is wonderful and it's horrible believable. Your positive reaction encourages me to press on.

  2. Hi Fleur. It really is worth carrying on with. It is a disturbing story though