"The Darling is Hannah Musgrave's story, told emotionally and convincingly years later by Hannah herself. A political radical and member of the Weather Underground, Hannah has fled America to West Africa, where she and her Liberian husband become friends and colleagues of Charles Taylor, the notorious warlord and now ex-president of Liberia. When Taylor leaves for the Unites States in an effort to escape embezzlement charges, he's immediately placed in prison. Hannah's encounter with Taylor in America ultimately triggers a series of events whose momentum catches Hannah's family in its grip and forces her to make a heartrending choice."--BOOK JACKET.
"Oh, Woodrow," I said, smiling into the darkness at the gods of sex who knew all that I knew and more.
The gods of... what? Who knew... what? DID YOU REALLY JUST WRITE THAT SENTENCE?
Hannah's character comes off as being totally unbelievable -- she goes from radical wanted fugitive to living this sort of bourgeois lifestyle that was seemingly everything she was against before leaving the US. I just couldn't buy it. It even seems like Hannah couldn't figure it out either. I really didn't find Hannah a very well-drawn character...more like a shadow of what she could have been according to her own ideology.
Banks is a fine author, and the basic story here is good, but some of the situations in which Hannah finds herself, and more importantly, her reactions to them, just don't come off as realistic. Also, since the story begins with Hannah returning to Liberia, I assumed that there'd be more to that particular storyline than just a few pages.
I would recommend it, because I think it's a good glimpse into the Liberian political situation and a brief look at what happens to the US aid money that finds itself going abroad. If you're interested in either of those topics, you might enjoy it. Otherwise, it has sort of a falsity that might leave you cold.
The strength in this book lies in the development of the main character as a fearful rebel from a wealthy family and private school who clings to and defines herself by her youthful rebellion, even though it was by Weatherman standards minor, and in the present day, irrelevant. Her attempts to reject her wealthy northeast past and fit into Liberian society are a predictable failure. Somehow the sense of difference she derives from her radicalism are more important to her than anything else.
The plot, however, tends to touch on the unbelievable and fails to draw you in.
When Found the novel , read the back cover. Laid book down walked away. Few moments later, picked the book back up. Started story immediately, loved every page , for me, Could believe in the character, of Hannah. As She grows older, what matters, changes. Some of her choices were poor.Were the sex scenes, a reflection of her changing feelings toward her husband. She wil also have an interests in women-could that be why, her time with a man, was wrote as it was.
Will not write her of what happens in the story, others have done that- Read this story, decide for your self- Why Russell Banks wrote the sex and letter scenes, the way he did. Story moves quickly and is easy to follow. Your will learn some about liberia, during Charles Taylor watch.
Part of the reason why I liked The Darling so well is because it was written by a man. Russell Banks is able to capture the voice of a woman as a wife, mother, and an individual fiercely protective of her independence and individuality. Even if she doesn't know who she really is. The first person voice is reminiscent of Barbara Kingsolver's Taylor Greer or Margaret Atwood's Handmaid.
While this book was not really my cup of tea, the story was fairly interesting.
However, the book was written in the first person from the perspective of a protagonist I couldn't relate to or empathize with.
1) The Orientalist nature that the narrator looks at Africa. It is so outside of her and her experience, even when she lives there for a quarter century. We can never empathize with any African character, because all of them are seen as monsters, incapable of the human emotions that the narrator feels. Frankly, if it weren't for the narrator's inability to connect with people outside of Africa, I would be calling this book racist.
2) The misunderstanding of radicalism and feminism. The narrator feels as if she has been crippled from her "natural instincts" by the feminist reworking of her life. As if being forced into the nuclear family as a domestic slave is anything close to natural. Patriarchy oppresses women, not feminism. Feminist reorganization of kinship, relationship, and parenting roles is not removing or deleting "natural instinct." It is removing the boot off of the neck of women and enabling them to be what they naturally are: human.
It was marginally entertaining, if wholly depressing. And the last page about 9/11 and the massive restructuring of US society to render people like her obsolete is an interesting insight. If I actually had to read this instead of listening to it during my commute on CDs, I may not have finished it.