Published: Lightning Books (June 2021)

ISBN: 9781785631337

The Darlings

Angela Jackson


The daring new novel from the author of The Emergence of Judy Taylor

SEMI-FINALIST: Book Bloggers’ Novel of the Year Award

When Mark Darling is fifteen years old, he is the golden boy, captain of the school football team, admired by all who know him. Until he kills his best friend in a freak accident.

He spends the next decade drifting between the therapy couch and dead-end pursuits. Then along comes Sadie. A mender by nature, she tries her best to fix him, and has enough energy to carry them both through the next few years.

One evening, Mark bumps into an old schoolfriend, Ruby. She saw the accident first hand. He is pulled towards her by a force stronger than logic: the universal need to reconcile one’s childhood wounds. This is his chance to, once again, feel the enveloping warmth of unconditional love. But can he leave behind the woman who rescued him from the pit of despair, the wife he loves? His unborn child?

This is a story about how childhood experience can profoundly impact how we behave as adults. It’s a story about betrayal, infidelity and how we often blinker ourselves to see a version of the truth that is more palatable to us.


When Mark Darling was fifteen years old, he killed his best friend.

In an attempt to score a perfect six, he swung a cricket bat with such force that his young hands lost their grip on it. He laughed as the bat zoomed through the air, until it hit Fergus Banks on the head with a firm thwack.



When Mark Darling was fifteen years old, he killed his best friend.

In an attempt to score a perfect six, he swung a cricket bat with such force that his young hands lost their grip on it. He laughed as the bat zoomed through the air, until it hit Fergus Banks on the head with a firm thwack.

Mark’s body clock shifted. He shut out the daylight, slept sun up to sun down. At night, fuelled almost solely by junk food, he lurked online, clicking and scrolling his way around, while documentaries buzzed at low volume from the television. His parents tried to help, via a conveyor belt of therapists, but each time he described the accident, it served only to burn the sounds and images more deeply into his brain.

One icy winter’s night, his parents took a bend too fast, and two police officers delivered the news that he was now truly alone in the world. So, from that point, he learned how to toke and drink himself to oblivion. It was easy to pass a decade or so that way.

Then came Sadie. Slowly, carefully, mercifully, she rescued him, patched up the parts she could mend, and lived with the rest.

Mark is a comedian.


‘Exactly the kind of humane, life-affirming, humorous read I needed’

Catherine Simpson, author of When I Had a Little Sister

‘Angela is a true writer and an extremely powerful voice’


‘This gem of a book perfectly captures the atmosphere of Edinburgh, the complexity of an affair and the absolute need of the main character to be loved and accepted for who he is. Angela Jackson writes with precision, empathy and humour’

Caroline Copeland, Outwith Festival


‘Eccentric…compelling...subtle… A dark, humorous novel, led by domestic scenes and keen observations, in which a troubled man’s crises have clear consequences’

Foreword Reviews

‘It’s a brave move to write a book that focuses on adultery and its consequences – even braver to tell the story from the point of view of the adulterer – but I thought it was quite wonderful. Welcome back, Angela – without question, this will be one of my books of the year’

Being Anne

‘Whilst this is a deep and layered story that is sometimes emotionally draining, it will also make the reader smile. Angela Jackson is a perceptive author who is not afraid to take a risk. It has paid off here’

Random Things Through My Letterbox

‘I felt a range of emotions reading this - happiness, anger, frustration and sadness. A fantastic book’

All Books Great and Small

‘My God, this book was refreshing! What I love about this story is the imperfections shown in every character. Angela Jackson’s writing is witty and actually hilarious. I couldn’t put it down’

Nadia’s World of Books *****

‘Jackson is smart on social observation, occasionally acerbic, but more often portraying her characters with a warm affection and there’s a gentle humour running through her novel. An engrossing, enjoyable read’

A Life in Books

‘I really enjoyed this – the writing is sharp and perceptive, and has characters that made me feel anger, sadness and frustration, as well as making me laugh. Highly recommended’

My Reading Corner

‘Every once in a while I read a book so engrossing that real life is an irritation. The Darlings compels the reader to be empathetic and to laugh and cry simultaneously. I unreservedly recommend it. I’m confident it will be in my top 10 books of the year’

Left on the Shelf

‘A fascinating look at infidelity and the impact of childhood trauma that gripped me from the first page. I was completely captivated. If you enjoyed Normal People by Sally Rooney, you’ll love this’

Vicky’s Bookish Life *****

‘An easy, quick and enjoyable read. Anyone who has any experience of an affair, from any angle, will be nodding knowingly. Jackson deals with the subject with a light touch without ever lessening the seriousness of it’

Suze Reviews

‘An unflinching look at life, love and who we are as humans. It doesn’t portray people in the best light but shows us them as real as possible. The narrative is sharp, punchy and very funny at times. Just like life!’

Books by Bindu

‘I was absolutely gripped as I wanted to get more and more inside Mark’s head. Given the potentially heavy topic, it was really well handled’

Mikaela Reads

‘Both heartbreakingly original and originally heartbreaking. It is a engrossing and emotional read and if you’ve not got your summer TBR scheduled already, you should definitely make a space for this thought-provoking, well written and unforgettable novel’

On the Shelf Books

‘Real, raw and brilliantly done’

Travels Along My Bookshelf

‘I revelled in Jackson’s ability and skill in pulling apart a marriage and a man, and the wonderful story she was able to tell’

My Bookish Blogspot

‘Brilliant. An engaging story that another author could make a depressing mess. I couldn’t tear my eyes away. A great contemporary piece of fiction’

My Bookish Bliss

‘The writing is superb to say the least. It’s my first time reading Angela Jackson and it won’t be the last’

Trini Girl Reads

‘Both extremely funny and desperately sad. Love isn’t always straightforward and it’s great to read a book that tackles that head on. the first book I've read in a very long time that manages to be funny, entertaining, heart-rending and poignant all at once'

Kartea Books

‘A captivating story that deals with the difficulties and struggles that some people face in their everyday lives’

Cathy Reads

‘Wow wow wow. This book has *everything*. Sentiment without being sentimental. Familial familiarity without being cliched. Love, trauma and confusion. What more could you want? How about stand-up comedy? Plus totally believable characters. I was hooked from the first page’

Daisy Hollands *****

‘The twists and turns of this book had me on the edge of my seat and i read it in one sitting’

Beth Reads Books

‘A great piece of writing. In a refreshing and stark portrayal of a deeply traumatised individual, Angela Jackson uses humour and emotion to draw us into a web of love, betrayal, self worth and deceit’

Bex Books and Stuff

‘Angela Jackson writes very insightfully about human dilemmas and frailties and certainly doesn’t shy away from showing her characters’ flaws. With themes of betrayal and guilt, this could be quite a dark book but with the author’s deft touch it’s a compelling read’

Portobello Book Blog

‘Such a wonderful read – unusual how it was written from the adulterer’s side, but that made it all the more intriguing. The characters are fantastic. I didn’t even dislike Mark, the adulterer’

Jolene’s Book Corner *****

‘Angela Jackson really made the characters come to life for me. I disliked some of Mark’s actions and found myself very angered by them. However it was nice to read a book with flawed characters’

Lose Yourself in a Book *****

‘Ever read a book that takes you completely by surprise? Mark is a textbook antihero but I was continually hoping things worked out in his favour. I loved Jackson’s approach, dealing with such heavy subject matter yet repeatedly making me laugh – no easy feat’

Laura’s Next Chapter

’So realistic I felt like I could pop along the road and and meet the characters in the flesh. I thought a story about betrayal and infidelity would have me raging, but I was totally immersed’

Switch Off and Read

‘A fantastic plot with some great characters and brilliant writing. It kept me entertained from beginning to end’

A Good Book ’n’ a Brew *****

‘I raced through this book. I literally could not put it down!’

Zoe Loves Books

‘Compelling and honest. I really enjoyed it’

Book Blogging Bureau

‘I shouldn’t like this book. I do not condone cheating in any form but the story and the way this book is written really carries it. It explores infidelity and betrayal not just on the surface but in a deeper way. I loved it!’

Mum of a Premature Baby


Angela Jackson’s debut novel was a bestseller. So why did it take her seven years to write her next book? She tells Female First about the struggles and pressures authors face when writing that difficult second novel.

Angela talks to the Left on the Shelf blog about her journey from first to second novel.

Angela talks to the ScotsWhayHae! Podcast about getting that tricky second novel to work after winning a prize for her first one – and how she got over imposter syndrome.


Angela Jackson

Angela Jackson is a former psychology lecturer. Her debut novel The Emergence of Judy Taylor won the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s First Book Award in 2013 and was Waterstones’ Scottish Book of the Year. She lives in Edinburgh.

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