The Darkness That Divides Us


Beautiful, happy people? No.

Lucy is the most popular girl in the local elementary school of an idyllic Dutch housing estate. When a bizarre crime rocks her world and sends her mother to prison, Lucy is turned into an outcast and her childhood becomes an ordeal of constant, vicious bullying. After her mother’s release, Lucy’s family decides to escape and make a clean start on a rugged Scottish island. But even here, in this remote corner of the world, Lucy’s past holds a firm grip on her. Told in the alternating voices of the bullies and Lucy, this darkly atmospheric and emotionally gripping story is part family drama and part mystery.

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Publication date

May 21, 2019




Renate Dorrestein

Renate Dorrestein (1954–2018) is an internationally bestselling author who occupies a unique position within Dutch literature… Read more

Book Club Questions

  1. Why doesn’t Lucy inform anyone about the severe bullying that’s going on against her?
  2. Could the bullying have been prevented in some way?
  3. Have you had any experiences with successful bullying prevention, or with exactly the opposite?
  4. Why does Lucy’s mother get so angry at Thomas during the celebration of the engagement party?
  5. How would you explain the scene in which Lucy starts to dance in a sensual way during the school theatre? Why would she do that?
  6. How do you feel about the plural, omniscient point of view in Part 1? Do you feel sympathetic toward Lucy and her mother or are you on the side of the townspeople?
  7. Thinking about Part 1, do you think Lucy’s mother is guilty? How does your perspective change in Parts 2 and 3, if it does?
  8. What do you think of Lucy’s affection for Lola? How does it stand in contrast to her relationship with her own mother?
  9. Lucy feels more comfortable when her family moves because no one knows about her past. But does her past affect her? In what way and in what choices?
  10. How would you characterize the relationship between Lucy and Ludo and Duko?
  11. How would you characterize the relationship between Lucy and her mother? Is it a normal mother-daughter relationship?
  12. Was the setting one that felt familiar or relatable to you? Why or why not?
  13. What kind of relationship do you think the mother has with Ludo and Duko?
  14. What is Ludo and Duko’s motive for coming to help Lucy during her confrontation with Thomas’s father?
  15. In what way does the death of Thomas’s father affect the relationships between Lucy, her mother, and Ludo and Duko?
  16. What do you think makes the mother decide to take the guilt upon herself and go to jail?
  17. Why do you think that, in the end, the mother decides to leave Lucy and Ludo and Duko?
  18. What do you think the title refers to?
  19. Dorrestein uses the alphabet to name each of her chapters. How does this relate to the novel? Does each chapter name reflect the contents?


“Less a murder mystery and more a disquieting reflection on how people construct their own versions of the truth…Frighteningly clever. The haunting landscapes Dorrestein creates are as real as they are darkly fantastical.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Just a remarkable book. Haunting characters, amazing voice, propulsive plot. I hope we see a lot more from Dorrestein. Count me among her fans.” —KAREN JOY FOWLER

“A stunning mixture of many genres. The criminal story provides popular, folkloric, parodic, and psychological hints of secret codes to solve the murder case.” —American Book Review

“An interesting study in how we intuitively know things aren’t right and how we cope with the lies and subsequent trauma; we are not so much in control of events, as we like to think we are.” —The Bookseller

“The plot holds tightly together, tempting the reader further to uncover the secrets hidden in later pages. Highly recommended.” —Dutch News

“What particularly appeals—and where her strength lies—is the drive that Dorrestein gives her characters. Their survival spirit and courage are unlimited, and their loneliness is therefore all the more tangible.” —De Volkskrant