#20BooksOfSummer 18: In Darkling Wood by Emma Carroll

#20BooksOfSummer is an annual event hosted by Cathy Brown of 746 Books and runs from 3rd June until 3rd September With the aim to clearing a target of 5, 10 or 20 books from your TBR but with very relaxed and fun rules.

Here is my joining post & List!

Book cover for In Darkling Wood
Cover design: Julian de Narvaez

This is an emotionally challenging but hopeful tale about families struggling with difficulties and secrets amidst a tale promoting the conservation of ancient spaces.

In Darkling Woods combines a contemporary narrative of Alice and the epistolary story of a sister writing to her brother in the days after WWI giving us a dual narrative that in classic ghostly style is destined to align or affect one another by the end of the story.

Ancient Woods
Secrets & Omissions
History- family, local, nation

A middle of the night phone call and dash to a London hospital sees Alice bundled off to her estranged grandmother Nell in the middle of nowhere whilst her mother stays with her 7 year old brother undergoing a heart transplant because their father is too busy making excuses.

Nell lives in a grand house called Darkling Cottage on the edge of its own private Woods and much to the disgust of locals Nell is determined to cut the woods down.

Yet she is thwarted it seems at every turn and Flo, the girl in the red coat that Alice meets in the Woods says it’s because the fairies that live there are protecting themselves, and will turn nasty if Nell succeeds.

Scattered throughout are letters from a young girl living in Darkling Cottage to her Brother at the Front at the end of World War I telling of daily life and her experiences in the Woods with fairies.

At eleven o’clock precisely, the church bells rang and our entire village filled the streets. Oh Alfred, you should’ve seen it!

I left teaching before this was published but if I had been teaching, and indeed when the girls come to learn about the First World War & Home Front (and if I do any tutoring) this will be a book certainly worth recommending and perhaps even using sources from.

There’s a rich tapestry of history underpinning the epistolary sections from reference to rationing, telegrams, returned soldiers suffering from PTSD, the sense of chaos and disorder that we communications at the end of the war and even the Spanish Influenza outbreaks. There’s even allusion and later direct reference to the story of the Cottingley Fairies incident from 1917 as the girl in our book takes a picture of the fairies (hers of course are real) and is similarly visited by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

‘A fairy door is a very magical place. It’s a boundary between our world and theirs.’ She beckons me over. ‘Come and have a look.’

Magic wise this wasn’t a runaway with the fairies type book, this was more about Alice healing herself after feeling neglect since her father’s abandonment of the family and her brother’s illness and how it can be believing in magic again even when the world has been cruel and sparse of wonder.

It’s a coming of age story but with a reawakening of the childlike hope and faith in the unseen, the magic, the phantasmagorical and as Alice points out a parallel faith post WWI that gives us hope there is more than empty brutal ‘truths’ in this world- that magic and miracles can still happen and that such hope doesn’t have to be airy-fairy delusions.

She shrugs. I wait for the cheery comment, the big smile, the little joke, but instead her eyes go teary again and my insides fall away.

I’ll admit reading In Darkling Wood was a little challenging as one of the modern subplots involves a child with a life threatening condition and I was in tears by page 3 wondering if I’d made a mistake. However I made it through with some sniffles but in tact which I think is testament to how far I’ve come in emotional strength in the last 3.5 years.

Child illness and hospitals can be a trigger for me for whilst the girls don’t have anything life threatening, life changing or limiting thanks to their size and thyroid issues hospital appointments are a part of our life that many other families can’t comprehend.

Regardless of the mummy tugs I am glad that bloggers especially Amy has continuously recommended both this book and Emma Carroll to me, from both a history and story writing perspective this is wonderful and didn’t trigger me instead it’s a book about hope.

In Darkling Wood by Emma Carroll is published by Faber & Faber.


11 thoughts on “#20BooksOfSummer 18: In Darkling Wood by Emma Carroll

    1. I’m so pleased I was much better than I expected reading it 💜 and it was lovely and historical and just wonderful- thank you for keeping on reminding me to read it!!!


    1. Oh me too!! Somerset is where my grandfather was born and lived until he was a small boy with ancestors going back beyond records so I think there’s a pull to there for us!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I want to read this one, I think Emma Carroll is such a good MG author. Sky Chasers is my favourite, though I think it gets overlooked often.
    Also well done on getting through it even though there were emotional issues for you.xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so proud, I feel apart trying to read Charlie turns into a Chicken earlier this year simply because of the poorly brother- but I think I could handle it now!! Emma Carrol is fab, I’m definitely adding more of hers to my shelves

      Liked by 1 person

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