“Again, I heard my mantra coming unwanted into my mind: This isn’t normal. This isn’t how normal people think… Fuck off, world – what the hell is normal anyway?”
Into the Darkest Corner, by Elizabeth Haynes
Harper, June 2012
400 pages (hardcover)
When young, pretty Catherine Bailey meets Lee Brightman, she can’t believe her luck. Gorgeous, charismatic, and a bit mysterious, Lee seems almost too perfect to be true.
But what begins as flattering attention and spontaneous, passionate sex transforms into raging jealousy, and Catherine soon discovers that Lee’s dazzling blue eyes and blond good looks hide a dark, violent nature. Disturbed by his increasingly erratic, controlling behavior, she tries to break it off; turning to her friends for support, she’s stunned to find they don’t believe her. Increasingly isolated and driven into the darkest corner of her world, a desperate Catherine plans a meticulous escape.
Four years later, Lee is behind bars and Catherine – now Cathy – is trying to build a new life in a new city. Though her body has healed, the trauma of the past still haunts her. Then Stuart Richardson, her attractive new neighbor, moves in. Encouraging her to confront her fears, he sparks unexpected hope and the possibility of love and a normal life.
Until the day the phone rings…
This book is intense. It’s also triggery as hell. I don’t have any specific issues with domestic violence (other than, you know, being a normal human being), but if you do, this is definitely not the book for you.
Into the Darkest Corner tells two parallel stories, as we’re taken back and forth between Catherine’s life four years ago and Cathy’s today. In the beginning, they’re like two completely separate characters. Catherine and Cathy are so different, and one of the most compelling things about the book was occasionally seeing glimpses of her current self in her past self, and gradually watching her transformation into the person she is now.
Another great strength of the book, I thought, was how the author portrays Cathy’s mental state. It’s not just an item on a list of character facts – haunted by traumatic past, check! Between Cathy’s own internal reactions to her behavior and the way we see it gradually develop, Cathy comes through as a real, complicated person… and I felt like I was right there with her, through it all.
Which is great, and what you want from a good book… but I found myself needing frequent breaks, just to take a step back and a deep breath, before continuing with the story. It was that intense.
The court transcripts used at the beginning and ending of the book weren’t nearly as strong as the main bulk of the novel, and I felt the end would have had more of an impact without the extended denouement (which included the transcript plus another couple scenes). But on the whole, Into the Darkest Corner was an extremely good debut. I’m looking forward to reading more of Elizabeth Haynes in the future.
Does Into the Darkest Corner sound like something you’d pick up? How do you feel reading books with disturbing subjects?