Review: Games to Play After Dark by Sarah Gardner Borden

Friday, May 27, 2011



Title: Games to Play After Dark
Author: Sarah Gardner Borden
Genre: Contemporary
Series: N/A
Published: May 2011
Pages: 336
Rating: 3/5

All admissions forward: I won this ARC in a goodreads.com giveaway.
This is a polarizing novel. I believe the reader will either love it or be entirely put-off by it. The content of the story is dark, depressing even, and the characters are more of the same. It's told in a very dry, almost apathetic voice; the prose is tight and direct. The author does a great job of reinforcing the intransigence of Kate and Colin with the style of her writing. Like the plot and the characters, there is nothing frivolous or lush about the writing. I very much liked how the story was told as opposed to the story itself.
The beginning starts off innocuous and fairly normal, but quickly escalates into a picture of a suburban nightmare. I was reminded a bit of Richard Yates' brilliant and disturbing Revolutionary Road, as both stories feature a young couple that meets, marries quickly, has two children and must deal with the disillusionment that follows the achieving "the American dream".
Kate and Colin are both selfish, difficult people. Both assume the other should make life better for them, rather than taking any imitative on their own terms to seek happiness. I have a greater antipathy towards Kate rather than her husband because she is the main character and the evolution of her nature is truly sad, and often enraging. Her attitude toward her husband and eventually her two daughters is often out-of-control and unfathomable. I never connected to Kate, even during flashbacks to a kinder, less complicated Kate. Colin is more removed/distant from the story than his wife; we never see a chapter from his point of view or get in his head like we do Kate's. In fact, he is almost a nonentity, he moves around his family like a satellite orbiting a planet for most of the novel. This is done on purpose, I feel, to give an illustration of how lonely and bereft Kate often feels with Colin as her partner.
I'm not sure if I liked this novel, whereas I loved Revolutionary Road, but it definitely managed to get inside my head and stay there. To dislike characters that intensely means that the author has at least have struck a chord within the audience, and that is a feat to be applauded. It was a brilliantly done novel, it truly showed the deterioration of a once-happy marriage and all that implies, but it was just so bleak and uncompromising I cannot see myself recommending it to a friend to read.

8 comments:

  1. That was a great review. I like how you separated how she wrote as opposed to what she wrote. The title alone is enough to intrigue me and I may give this one a whirl (aka - put on my to read list and hope I get to it soon). I'm interested to see how two unlikable characters move the story forward.

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  2. It was definitely compelling, but by the end, I just could not stand the two main characters. I launched into a light YA to brighten up my mood!

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  3. Nice review -- I'm totally passing on this one because it sounds too horrifically grim -- and lately I have little tolerance for bad marriages in fiction.

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  4. The fact that I don't like any of the characters is not something that would stop me from liking a book -- Ron Rash's Serena comes to mind -- I hated every character, but could not put the book down.

    Your great review has piqued my interest about this one...I am going to check it out, thanks!

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  5. I'm intrigued by the book you mention. I'm off to Google and possibly add it to the tbr monstrosity.

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  6. *mentioned. I type so well.

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