‘In The Hours Of Darkness’ by Edna O’Brien

In The Hours Of Darkness by Edna O’Brien, 1976

The magic trick:

Turning a plain story of family transition into a nightmare

Today’s story finds a mother dropping her son off for college at Cambridge. It’s not nice or sentimental, though. It’s the empty nest syndrome as the stuff of nightmares.

It’s really not my favorite Edna O’Brien, truth be told. It is neat, though, the way the night unfurls with coincidence and repetition to create a haunted effect. This really should be a bland story of family adjustment. Instead, it’s kind of terrifying. And that’s quite a trick on O’Brien’s part.

The selection:

Coming toward her was a young man wearing a motorcyclist’s leather jacket that was too small for him. Something about the way he walked reminded her of restless youths that she had seen in an American film, of gangs who went out at night to have fights with other gangs, and inventing as a reason for murder their virility or their honour. This boy reminded her of that group. She wondered who he would be, thought that probably he had put on the jacket to give himself an image, was looking for friends.

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