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James Graham
Darcy Lane

Darcy Lane tells the story of a young girl, who at the tender of age of 7, witnesses the murder of her mother. The book explores the girl's trauma, efforts to move on, and how the legacy of the murder persists in her life.

Graham’s debut novella offers the haunting tale of a young woman reentering society and grappling with reality after experiencing wrenching trauma and loss as a girl. In Lancashire, England, Elise Rose's life is upended at the age of seven when she witnesses her mother's murder at the hands of a gentleman caller. Then, at the age of twenty, Elise is released into the custody of her grandfather, Emmett, at the end of a two year stay in a psychiatric unit after an episode of psychosis. When she stumbles upon a quaint house on Darcy Lane one day, with a bold red door and a pond out back, Elise becomes fixated with what the house symbolizes and the future she envisions.

Darcy Lane’s emotionally charged story pulses with themes of loss, redemption, and growth. While taking on weighty themes, Graham draws intriguing parallels between Elise's life and her mother's, from their strong resemblance to their decisions to trust the wrong people, creating suspense as the story progresses. The characters are both complex and relatable, their motivations, as in life, sometimes enigmatic. The prose, though, is pared down and brick-blunt: ”Stood at his bedroom window was Emmett. The two of them held stare for a moment.” Those sturdy sentences, though, can be at tense odds with the view of the world through Elise's eyes, as readers will at times wonder whether what she perceives is what’s truly happening. Graham also allows himself to change perspective within a chapter or even paragraph, which demands readers stay alert to keep up.

Those who do will find themselves rooting for the protagonist to break a generational cycle of mistakes and overcome the tragic setbacks of her childhood. The plot moves at a steady pace toward a conclusion that, in hindsight, feels inevitable and will please fans of humane, realistic fiction in which characters face traumatic pasts.

Takeaway: A moving novella of a young woman facing the lingering effects of childhood trauma.

Great for fans of: Amber McBride’s Me: Moth, Kathleen Glasgow’s Girl in Pieces.

Production grades
Cover: C
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B
Marketing copy: A