Rating: 2.5/5 stars
Where do you end up when you have nowhere to go, and no one to turn to?
Paul isn't thinking clearly. After destroying a series of relationships – with his friends, his flatmates, his mum – he finally hurts the one person he cares about most of all. And then he runs away.
An extraordinary and heartrending story of love, betrayal, addiction and hope. (Description from Goodreads)
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If you picked up this book thinking it would be a light, contemporary read, you'll be disappointed. Song in the Dark is a gritty and confronting read that details the downward spiral of a troubled Australian boy and it's a bit tricky to deal with at times.
I went into this story thinking I was going to get something a lot different to what I received. The blurb doesn't give you a lot to go off, but I was definitely thinking this would be a story of self discovery and making something better of yourself. The main character, Paul, struggles to be more than he can be. The drug addiction, lack of money, and lack of a strong family and friend support group makes his troubles difficult to overcome; and when he disappoints his only loving family member - his Grandmother - he runs. I had mixed feelings about Paul. I wanted to feel sorry for him for having such a screwed up life, but I had no sympathy with all the drug taking and stealing. I feel like he didn't progress much as a character for the majority of the book: feeling sorry for himself and failing to commit to, and accept, help from anyone. It took a very long time for him to get anywhere in the story, and I don't feel like we really got a conclusion for his eventual efforts.
I liked seeing the flash back scenes we got from Paul, as well as from his grandmother Hetty, who shared the narration perspective for some the novel. I had this strong desire to find something positive in Paul's life and these scenes showed that his Grandmother was that something. It did make it hard to accept the present Paul a bit, because he had someone good in his life, but I enjoyed seeing these scenes.
The novel is very descriptive, but not always for the better. At first I thought Paul's actions, whether the drug taking, violent sicknesses or insane struggles, were powerful to read. To get such a strong reaction from a reader, the disgust at the thought of someone finding maggots in recently cooked food and preparing the next hit of a drug, the writing had to bring out more than just shallow emotions. It so jarring and commanding. But unfortunately it started to get a bit overdone. I wanted something more than the disgust. After seeing it at the start, and understanding that was happening, it needed to be left behind. But we're overloaded with these strong and detailed descriptions of Paul's dark and gritty life, that it became a bit too much for me.
I enjoyed seeing the rehab side of the story, because it brought about a change and progress. I felt that the ending was a bit uncertain, but at least things were looking up after the tough and slow process of the majority of the book.
(Originally posted on Goodreads)
Thank you Penguin Australia for a review copy of this book.