Richardson brings alive her characters in a believable way. Serena yearns to get away from her small town life and dysfunctional family and gain an education. Ilse and Gerda strive for quiet uncomplicated lives as immigrants while remembering the good and sometimes horrifically bad experiences of life in their former home.
Life under the scrutiny of the Stasi, East Germany’s secret police agency, is described in grim detail. This most hated and feared institution infiltrated every aspect of daily life, eventually for Gerda in the most brutal way imaginable. Her experiences are revisited as she becomes determined to protect Serena as her abuser closes in.
This book is difficult to categorise; it is part gripping psychological drama, part literary drama detailing the recent history of the former East Germany before the fall of Communism. Themes of family, helplessness, power and courage come together in a powerful and suspenseful novel.
I have not read Paddy Richardson before but will definitely search out her previous four novels (all held by Hastings District Libraries). She lives in Dunedin where she writes and teaches courses in creative writing.
Posted by Katrina H
Catalogue link: Swimming in the Dark