Book Review: All Down Darkness Wide – Sean Hewitt


Posted 5 months ago in Book Review

All Down Darkness Wide

Sean Hewitt

Jonathan Cape

All Down Darkness Wide is a haunted book. It becomes clear in the act of reading that all memoir is haunted: the act of self-knowledge is a ghostly one. The person who lived those acts is never quite the same as the person relating them.

“Ghosts can only live in the darkness,” Hewitt tells us at the start of this book, which tells in part of his life growing up closeted, his early embraces of his sexuality as a secret, shameful act carried out with strangers online and at the edge of fields. There is a legacy to such secrets. They are old in a way that teenagers can’t understand: “How could it be that I carried that history inside myself, some instinctive urge pulling me out of the house at night?” Hewitt asks. We are all ghosts.

Unsurprisingly, coming from a poet, the writing offers tautly wonderful turns of phrase: giving blood sees “the scarlet pouches of blood moving in iambs;” the difficulty of translation comes when “I didn’t have the grammar for abstract things.” It is the story of Hewitt’s later relationship with someone going through severe, suicidal depression, that really took my breath away in recognition, though: the sheer truth of it. The breathless, phone-clenching panic. It’s a remarkable meditation on how, sometimes, the way back to ourselves takes the form of telling the story of our own ghosts.

Words: Alice Wickenden

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