Excerpt from Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Girl in the Dark

A Memoir

by Anna Lyndsey

Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey X
Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2015, 272 pages

    Feb 2016, 272 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Sinéad Fitzgibbon
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Print Excerpt

Light Gets In

It is extraordinarily difficult to black out a room.

First I line the curtains with blackout material, a heavy, plasticky fabric, strange flesh-like magnolia in colour, not actually black. But the light slips in easily, up and over the gap between the rail and the wall, and at the bottom through the loops made by the hanging folds.

So I add a blackout roller blind, inside the window alcove. But the light creeps in around the sides, and shimmies through the slit at the top.

So I tackle the panes themselves. I cut sheets of cooking foil, press them against the glass, tape them to the window frames. But the foil wrinkles and rips, refuses to lie flat. Gaps persist around the edges, pinpricks and tears across the middle. I tape and tape, tape over tape, foil over foil, layer upon layer. Instead of neat sheets of foil tethered by single strips of tape, the thing is becoming wild installation art. But I can't stop. The light is laughing at me; it is playing deliberate games, lying low to persuade me that I have made an area secure, then as soon as I move on, wriggling through some overlooked wormhole. The day beyond my window is an ocean, pressing and pulsing at my protecting walls, and I must plug a leaky dike perpetually against its power.

At last, I think I may have done enough. I lower the blind on my crazy patchwork of foil, pull the curtains, place a rolled-up towel along the crack at the bottom of the door. I sit quietly on the bed, and wait for my eyes to adjust.

And I have it. Finally I have it. I have blackness.

I lie back inside my box of darkness, the new container for my life. I am overwhelmed with exhaustion and relief.


The house with the blacked-out room is not a large one. It is red brick with a tiled roof, a neat 1980s box. Downstairs there is a hall, a loo, a living room and a kitchen, upstairs three modest bedrooms and a bathroom. The garage joins it to the house next door, its mirror image, round the other way.

From the front garden, looking up, my black room is the one on the right-hand side. The house, alone among its companions, has one closed eye, and inside that dark eyeball, a pale girl.

When I come out of my black room, three closed doors lead from the landing; they are always kept shut. The stairs curve downwards into gloom, because there is a curtain covering the glazed front door. I have learnt not to hurtle down them. I descend carefully, holding on to the handrail, placing a foot squarely on each step.

I go into the living room. At each end, the curtains are drawn; they are conventional curtains, so the room is not absolutely black. Armchairs and a sofa make humped shapes like resting elephants in the minimal light. The metal frames of pictures reflect odd gleams, the images themselves invisible. Around the dining table, chair backs and arms are a jumble of vertical and horizontal bars. From a corner, a standard lamp rears a sinister outsize head.

I move into the kitchen, and immediately pick up speed. Even though closed Venetian blinds filter the light that comes through its windows, this room is much brighter than the rest of the house. I grab the kettle, shove it under the tap, slot it on to its base and bang the button down. I swing round to a cupboard, extract a mug and a plate, and sidestep to another for a teabag. I take the plate, a knife and a packet of oatcakes into the gloom next door, set them on the dining table and listen as the kettle bubbles itself to a climax. When it's clicked, I dart into the kitchen again, and with the economy and swiftness of a dancer, pour my tea, extract cheese from the fridge and, carrying both, withdraw.

Then, at the shadowy dining table, swift and concentrated eating.

For I know I do not have much time. Immediately I leave my blacked-out room, a clock is ticking; my skin begins its twisted dialogue with light. At first the exchange takes place in softest whispers, then more insistent mutterings. "Ignore it!" I want to scream. "You don't have to respond, don't get involved." But my skin soon chatters loudly, an argument is building. The situation is becoming heated; it is prudent to separate the protagonists. There are no blisters and no blotches--I am free of visible signs of conflict. But agonisingly, with ever-increasing ferocity, over the whole covering of my body, I burn with invisible fire.

Excerpted from Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey. Copyright © 2015 by Anna Lyndsey. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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