Summary and book reviews of In A Dark Wood by Amanda Craig

In A Dark Wood

by Amanda Craig

In A Dark Wood by Amanda Craig X
In A Dark Wood by Amanda Craig
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2002, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2003, 320 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Interspersing the magic of fairy tales with a wry yet touching narrative, Amanda Craig examines the thin line between fantasy and reality, creativity and mental illness.

Benedick Hunter is a recently divorced, out-of-work, thirty-nine-year-old actor. Feeling both guilty and sorry for himself, he blunders through weekends with his two spirited children and fends off various women desperate to snare an eligible man, all the time fearing that he is on the brink of a nervous breakdown.

His life takes on a new direction, however, when he discovers a long-forgotten book of fairy tales his mother wrote and illustrated decades earlier. Drawn to its pages, he becomes entranced by the hints of reality embedded in the stories, from thinly veiled portraits of his own father and his parents’ acquaintances to alluring glimpses of his mother as a young woman. Convinced that the stories can explain his mother’s suicide when he was six and put an end to his agonizing mood swings, Benedick embarks on a journey to untangle the past, a journey that eventually takes him to the heart of his own nature, modern fatherhood, manic depression, and the elusive character of fairy-tales.

With imagination and incisive wit, Amanda Craig has written a novel that was selected as one of the "best of the year’s books" by the The Times of London, which wrote, "Although not frightening enough to give you sleepless nights, Craig’s wonderful, page-turning storytelling will keep you up way past your time for bed."

Chapter One

The book, her book, was bound in black, with the words North of Nowhere indented in worn gold on the spine. Dirty and dusty, the boards loose under the cloth, it resembled a kind of withered bat. I looked at it with vague distaste. Then, almost as if it had suddenly come to life, it slithered out of my grasp, jabbed my foot, bounced and splayed open. I picked it up. I didn't know then how dangerous fairy tales can be.

I was trying to separate my possessions from those of my wife, Georgina. A biography in books, this is why some people scan your shelves, in the manner of a Roman seer gazing at entrails. There were duplicate editions of T. S. Eliot and Shakespeare, of Beckett, Pinter, and Joyce. My own copies of Conrad, Dostoevsky, and Waugh jumbled up with her Austen, George Eliot and the Brontës...the male versus the female canon. The plays I had been in, with my parts underlined in lurid orange. Her university texts, with notes scribbled in pencil or biro. ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Contemplating his divorce, Benedick describes his state of mind: "What frightened me most was, I could no longer believe in my own life as a story. Everyone needs a story, a part to play in order to avoid the realization that life is without significance. How else do any of us survive? It's what makes life bearable, even interesting. When it becomes neither, people say you've lost the plot. Or just lost it" [p. 19]. At the end of the novel, when Benedick finds acting work, he concludes: "It was this, I think, as much as the lithium, that made me better. It meant that I hadn't been written out of the story of my life. People say that life has no story, that to believe it does is a symptom of madness, and I had...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

Sunday Times (UK)
'Polished prose and flashing wit.'

The Times of London
Although not frightening enough to give you sleepless nights, Craig’s wonderful, page-turning storytelling will keep you up way past your time for bed.

Library Journal
An intriguing idea is marred by poor execution in Craig's novel, which was a great success in England in 2000..... Although the story is engaging and maintains interest, its weaknesses overpower its strengths. Neither Benedick's mania nor his children are convincingly depicted ... and the book reads as if it were switching genres from realistic fiction to Gothic romance.

Publishers Weekly
With a sure hand, Craig brings chilling suspense and dark humor to a stylized study of the loss of childhood innocence, the complexities of creativity and the correlation between artistic genius and mental health all expertly cloaked in the symbols and metaphors of fairy tales.

Author Blurb Helen Dunmore
'A most unusual, bold and imaginative novel, and a very moving one'

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked In A Dark Wood, try these:

  • The Cove jacket

    The Cove

    by Ron Rash

    Published 2012

    About this book

    More books by this author

    This lyrical, heart-rending tale, as mesmerizing as its award-winning predecessor Serena, shows once again this masterful novelist at the height of his powers.

  • The Last Werewolf jacket

    The Last Werewolf

    by Glen Duncan

    Published 2012

    About this book

    More books by this author

    Here is a powerful, definitive new version of the werewolf legend—mesmerising and incredibly sexy. In Jake, Glen Duncan has given us a werewolf for the twenty-first century—a man whose deeds can only be described as monstrous but who is in some magical way deeply human.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Confessions of an Innocent Man
    Confessions of an Innocent Man
    by David R. Dow
    It is circumstance that carries the wave that sweeps trendy Houston restaurateur Rafael Zhettah to ...
  • Book Jacket: Memories of the Future
    Memories of the Future
    by Siri Hustvedt
    I've never kept a journal, but my mother has written in hers for years, the annual volumes she's ...
  • Book Jacket: Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss
    Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss
    by Rajeev Balasubramanyam
    Rajeev Balasubramanyam encapsulates the theme of Professor Chandra Follows his Bliss in its first ...
  • Book Jacket: The Workshop and the World
    The Workshop and the World
    by Robert P. Crease
    The longest glacier in France, the Mer de Glace, is losing roughly 12 feet of ice height each year. ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Affairs of the Falcóns
    by Melissa Rivero

    A beautiful, urgent novel about the lengths one woman is willing to go to build a new life.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Greek to Me
    by Mary Norris

    The Comma Queen returns with a buoyant book about language, love, and the wine-dark sea.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
An American Marriage
by Tayari Jones

A masterpiece of storytelling, and a 2018 Oprah's Book Club Selection.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Book Club Giveaway!
Win Ecstasy

Win copies to share with friends or your book club!

Ecstasy reveals the true Alma Mahler: composer, author, daughter, mother, wife, lover, and muse.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A B Penny A T U

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.