The novel is at its strongest when zon­ing in on the fraught re­la­tion­ship be­tween mother and daugh­ter

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE - JOANNE HAY­DEN

when Healey em­ploys her gift for ob­ser­va­tional com­edy and gives Jen’s wit free reign. Jen’s take on her younger hip­ster col­leagues is per­fect: “She sus­pected they didn’t have moth­ers but had been con­structed by a team of de­sign­ers just like them­selves.”

Less suc­cess­ful are the novel’s end­ing and its prom­i­nent and vo­lu­mi­nous ref­er­ences to art, Christian im­agery, folk leg­end and Greek myth. Back­ground al­lu­sions to the myth of Deme­ter, whose daugh­ter Perse­phone was ab­ducted to the un­der­world, would have suf­ficed, but the other ref­er­ences of­ten feel su­per­im­posed and un­nec­es­sary, di­lut­ing the im­pact of char­ac­ter and ac­tion. Sim­i­larly, Jen can seem very like a writer, reach­ing (some­times strain­ing) for anal­ogy and try­ing to im­pose mean­ing on ran­dom events.

The in­ten­sity of Healey’s fo­cus on Jen and Lana leaves some of the other char­ac­ters be­hind; Jen’s hus­band’s is preter­nat­u­rally stoic and calm. But though there are flaws, Whis­tle in the Dark is a sober­ing jour­ney into the un­der­world of the hu­man psy­che, high­light­ing that what we do to our­selves can be worse than what we do to each other.

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