Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Darkling - Charles Butler

The Darkling is Charles Butler’s debut novel. Since she was a child 15 year old Petra has loved to scare herself with the Darkling, a make-believe creature created from night time shadows on the wall. But what happens when the Darkling takes on a life of its own, then it reveals the tragic secret of nearby Century Hall and its elderly owner ? And why does Mr Century insist on giving Petra gifts ? No one, not even Petra, could guess at the terrifying events that will be unleashed by the Darkling, or the way they will change her life.

Charles Butler’s books have more than one key theme in common (aside from the supernatural element). All his teenage protagonists suffer from loneliness, having very few friends (usually they have just one friend on whom they can count); and all of them come from fractured homes. Only Tansy’s parents are still together (but only just); every other protagonist has lost at least one parent: Daniel’s father left home before his brother Timon’s death; Mardy’s father is dead, as is Petra’s mother; and Ossian’s artist father is not with Ossian’s mother. It appears that the loneliness of these teenagers gives the supernatural beings a foothold in their lives, allowing them to interfere. The other key theme of Butler’s books is time: whilst time is never as fluid in Butler’s books as it is in Death of a Ghost, it is nevertheless clear from The Darkling onwards, that the past and the present are far more interrelated than anyone really believes, and that it is occasionally possible for an individual to see into, or even move in, the past. In each book there is a key event that is directly linked to the events recounted in that book, an event which acts almost as a trigger for the subsequent events. Usually the event is several years in the past, but occasionally it took place only a few months before the events of the book. Thus Butler explores the idea that one individual is linked to another individual from a lifetime or more ago, and that time is not necessarily linear.

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