“Travelling in the Dark” by Emma Timpany


Thanks to Fairlight Books and NetGalley for the advance reading copy.

I really enjoyed this short novella by Emma Timpany. It was beautifully written, particularly the descriptions of New Zealand and Greece, and thought provoking with central themes about family and love.

The family thread of the story would hit home to anyone who has suffered as a member of a cruel and unfeeling family. The feelings of confusion, obligation and the futility of trying to have a relationship with toxic people who don’t care about you would sadly be familiar to many readers who too have messy and complicated families. There were points when I wanted to shake Sarah and scream “they’re not worth it!” but we can probably all be guilty sometimes of putting in huge efforts to one-sided relationships.

The ‘love story’ (although I hesitate to call it that) will be familiar to those who have experienced a frustrated teen love and anyone whose friend ultimately got the guy. I guess the moral of this part of the story is to not wait too long to tell someone how you feel. Again, the author portrays these relationships in a realistic manner, the people involved aren’t just one dimensional “good” or “bad”, there are nuances just as there are in real relationships.

At the conclusion of the story the future is still uncertain and messy, but I suppose that’s also true to life. Not everything can be comfortably wrapped up in a pretty little bow. 

Aspects of the story I didn’t like included Sarah referring to her son throughout the novel as “the child”. It felt very impersonal and uncaring and I don’t feel we got to understand enough of why she chose to do this. I can’t imagine ever referring to my son as “the child” and if it was done for a particular narrative reason, I didn’t get a sense of what that reason may have been. Some of the dialogue between Sarah and “the child” didn’t read as credible to me either. The earthquake references were by the by to me, perhaps this could have been integrated into the story more.

This novella piqued my interest enough to make me want to read more by the author. I enjoyed the simple story and thought it was well written and thought provoking.

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