Let’s keep it simple to begin with: Rick Gekoski’s “Darke” is a good book. It deals with some big issues honestly, sensitively, as well as starkly and unrelentingly.

Is there a ‘but’..? Sort of. As I was reading it, I couldn’t help but feel boundaries blurring between author and character – especially perhaps in the first half. Was it really the character saying something, or was it what Gekoski himself believes? Is Darke a convenient mask for a good old rant, the chance for Gekoski to insult someone – like Ian Hislop – and get away with it? And were some of the things Darke said there because Gekoski felt they ought to be? Surely that’s what a grumpy old man would say… One or two rang a bit hollow in that way. *

But once you get over this faintly pointless hypothesising, it doesn’t really matter any more.

My second ‘but’ is a bit nit-picky, but there’s one shudder in a latter part where, in maybe half a page, Darke’s daughter goes from being livid and furious to taking Darke by the arm and walking him round the garden. I read it more than once to find the transition, but I couldn’t find one. Surely that should take pages… But then again maybe I didn’t look hard enough.

For all of that, I’d recommend it. One of the best depictions of someone dying in here that I’ve ever read…

* In the acknowledgements section at the end of the book, Gekoski talks about how the character, Darke, inhabited him. Under those circumstances, is it any wonder lines became blurred?