Review of ‘The Speed of the Dark’ by Alex Shearer

This intriguing and haunting novel deserves to be better known. I’ve now read it four times and still consider it one of my favourites.

The story is at first narrated by a scientist, on the verge of retirement, when his colleague, Christopher, vanishes. He then finds a manuscript written by Christopher, which forms the rest of the novel. Set in the artist community of Bath, in England, the story focuses on what happens to Christopher as a schoolboy. His father’s girlfriend, a dancer called Poppea, disappears. Then his father, Robert, disappears. A family acquaintance and creator of microscopic sculptures, Mr Eckmann, has something to do with it.

My fascination with miniature things is one reason I like this book. Another reason is the careful narration, which examines adult relationships from a child’s perspective, with an adult’s hindsight. The novel is character-driven; the characters are all interesting, especially the bitter and talented Mr Eckmann, who has been taunted all of his life because of his short stature. He could too easily become a stock evil character but he tries to redeem himself and is treated with sensitivity. The themes in this YA novel are mature, not as in ‘adult content’ but in the way they occupy one’s thoughts. The story manages to be both very small and on a grand scale simultaneously. That’s all I wish to say about it, but if you decide to try this book, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

First published in 2003.

4 thoughts on “Review of ‘The Speed of the Dark’ by Alex Shearer”

    1. It’s not well-known at all so I’m not surprised you haven’t heard of it. Also, things move fast in the YA book world, so many of the books published 20 or so years ago (oh dear, I’m feeling kind of old now) are out of print etc.

  1. It sounds intriguing. I normally like character-driven novels, but have somewhat mixed experiences with YA. The perspective sounds interesting, getting the child’s view on the adult world but seen through an adult narrator. Great review!

    1. If a book has a writing style I love, it doesn’t matter to me what audience it’s for. I only occasionally read YA novels and when I do, they’re usually re-reads. Thanks 🙂

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