Darke is a coming-of-age novel written by American author, Rick Gekoski, and tells the story of an old man who has excluded himself from society. Its journal style, and division into three distinct sections, gives more of an insight into how the protagonist came to exclude himself from the world around him in such an extreme way. Likewise, the eponymous title reflects the dark nature of the protagonist’s lifestyle and solitude, further constituting the book’s main theme.
Gekoski has an easy and laid-back style of writing, which is easily the most enjoyable aspect of the book. Through his use of colloquial language and first-person accounts, he makes for a relatable and accessible character with whom the reader can engage. Likewise, the author writes in such a way that he manages to evoke laughter, sadness, frustration and empathy at various points in the novel.
Darke is one of the most antisocial and isolated characters I have ever come across – he has has “no job and no life: no occupation, just preoccupation”. As the book progresses, however, Gekoski reveals more about his way of thinking. He goes to great lengths to expose his protagonist’s angry and hypercritical voice – it is, for example, both shocking and disgusting when Darke attempts to kill his neighbour’s dog, and the measures he takes to keep people away from his house are astounding.
It is initially difficult to empathise with Darke, or understand what would bring him to behave in such a way, but Part II of the novel changes this. We are told of his wife’s tragic death of cancer, and all the suffering that accompanied this, creating a sense of pathos – as a result, we come to understand how this experience made him bitter. Gekoski’s writing is so consuming that, when Darke finally comes out of his seclusion in Part III, rediscovering his lost love for his daughter and grandson, the reader is involved in the collective excitement at the prospect of all he has to enjoy in his life.
Despite the initial melancholic tone of the book and the lack of sympathy we feel towards Darke, Gekoski brings to the fore interesting themes and allows us to consider how different people deal with grief and death, and how family can play a key role in such situations.
Darke by Rick Gekoski.