The BookBrowse Review

Published June 22, 2022

ISSN: 1930-0018

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Book Jacket

All Down Darkness Wide
A Memoir
by Seán Hewitt
12 Jul 2022
240 pages
Publisher: Penguin Press
Genre: Biography/Memoir
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By turns devastating and soaring, an ambitious memoir debut from one of Irish literature's rising stars.

When Seán Hewitt meets Elias, the two fall headlong into a love story. But as Elias struggles with severe mental illness, they soon come face-to-face with crisis.

All Down Darkness Wide is a perceptive and unflinching meditation on the burden of living in a world that too often sets happiness and queer life at odds, and a tender and honest portrayal of what it's like to be caught in the undertow of a loved one's deep depression. As lives are made and unmade, this memoir asks what love can endure and what it cannot.

Delving into his own history, enlisting the ghosts of queer figures before him, Hewitt plumbs the darkness in search of answers. From a nineteenth-century cemetery in Liverpool to a sacred grotto in the Pyrenees, it is a journey of lonely discovery followed by the light of community. Haunted by the rites of Catholicism and spectres of shame, it is nevertheless marked by an insistent search for beauty.

Hewitt captures transcendent moments in nature with exquisite lyricism, honours the power of reciprocated desire and provides a master class in the incredible force of unsparing specificity. All Down Darkness Wide illuminates a path ahead for queer literature and for the literature of heartbreak, striking a piercing and resonant chord for all who trace Hewitt's dauntless footsteps.

"Stunning...This memoir is a heartbreaking disquisition on 'ghosts' like Hopkins and on the unattainability of permanence, and it features one beautiful scene after another...A profoundly moving meditation on queer identity, mental illness, and the fragility of life." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"[A] remarkable book, haunting...extraordinary and simply unforgettable." - Booklist (starred review)

"What can't be conveyed in a short review is how poetic the writing is. This book bears reading twice it is so beautiful. Readers seeking an elegant, profound memoir will find none better than this. Highly recommended." - Library Journal (starred review)

"Laurel Prize winner Hewitt mines the capriciousness of love and pain in this poignant reflection on living with a clinically depressed partner...[he] crafts a moving story of salvation, as he charts his path out of darkness and into self-acceptance. It's an exquisite vision of queer heartbreak and liberation." - Publishers Weekly

"Seán Hewitt's book is a beautiful, complex, and textured meditation on love, on growing up gay, on becoming a poet and on inhabiting Northern landscapes in winter. His account of falling in love and being in love is honest and vivid, doing justice to dark experience, offering the most private moments a sort of glow. I was engrossed, hardly looking up as I read. I woke in the morning fully enclosed by it, as though I had been dreaming it." - Colm Tóibín, author of The Magician

"Seán Hewitt's memoir is extraordinarily beautiful (I mean that adverb: it is extra-ordinary) and moving and humane; it is the best new work of nonfiction I've read in years." - Sarah Perry, author of The Essex Serpent

"All Down Darkness Wide is a searing and sublime account of the scars left by intolerance and how they shape a self. Hewitt's gorgeous prose gleams like a dayspring in the dimness, his story lingering long after the book is closed." - Melissa Harrison, author of All Among the Barley

Seán Hewitt was born in 1990. He is the author of J. M. Synge: Nature, Politics, Modernism and the poetry collection Tongues of Fire, which was awarded the Laurel Prize and was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, the John Pollard Foundation International Poetry Prize and a Dalkey Literary Award. He is the recipient of a Northern Writers' Award, the Resurgence Prize and an Eric Gregory Award. Hewitt is a book critic for the Irish Times and teaches modern British and Irish literature at Trinity College Dublin.

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