The Measure of Darkness

256 pages

Trade Paper

List Price US $16.95
ISBN: 9781942658047


ISBN: 9781942658054

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“Straddling the line between a page-turning mystery and a forensic examination of the relationship between brain and self, The Measure of Darkness marks Durcan as a writer to watch.”

CBC Radio

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“Durcan’s scientific background is evident in the precision of his descriptions and the depth of his analysis of the novel’s characters. And yet, the soul of a writer shines through on every page. Durcan’s evocative imagery, talents for showing the multiple facets of human struggle, and seamless narrative structure are the marks of a true artist. Rarely does a modern novel resonate so well on so many levels.”

Life in Quebec Magazine

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“Durcan is masterly in portraying hemispatial brain injury from a patient’s perspective. . . . [His] wry observations about the medical world are penetratingly accurate. . . . It’s a pleasure to read this sophisticated novel and mull its scalpel-sharp perceptions about what causes us to make the life decisions we do.”

Toronto Star

“[Durcan’s] work at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital brings him into regular contact with neglect-afflicted patients, and in his second novel he puts what he has observed to great literary use, creating a complex, maddening and memorable protagonist whose struggle resonates well beyond his specific circumstance.”

Montreal Gazette

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“An evocative reminder that we are each the architects of our own lives.”

Winnipeg Free Press

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“Vividly rendered prose. . . . The Measure of Darkness strives to be more than an examination of what it is to have one’s ambition thwarted, and ultimately succeeds on many levels in its characterization of what it is like to not just understand, but to actually experience that subjectivity—that reality itself, is determined by nothing more than the tenuous and delicate physical tissues of one’s brain.”


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“Encompass[es] many great issues—neglect of family relationships, aging, compassion, reconciliation, vision, aesthetics, even the stifled career of a Soviet architect—but most of all, [The Measure of Darkness is] a meditation on the limits of personal power. Slowly, quietly, inexorably, Durcan makes clear just how profound those limits are and that they are imposed both from within and without.”

Best New Fiction

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“Durcan cleverly uses the neurological condition that he clearly knows a lot about to demonstrate that everybody tends to neglect certain aspects of their lives, and yet they are unaware of their actions and unaware of the effect that this neglect has on other people.”

MedHum Fiction | Daily Dose: Adventures at the Intersection of Medicine and Literature

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“Move over Howard Roark! . . . A lifelong obsession with a Soviet architect, a lovable McGill professor, references to Montreal firms, and sharp descriptions of New York, Montreal, Expo 67, the Eastern Townships, and Detroit-in-decline will satiate [architecture] readers.”

Canadian Architect

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“In this beautifully written work, readers experience Martin’s caught-breath panic and, as suspense mounts, anxious concern about what Martin was really doing on the road when he was injured.”

Library Journal (starred review)

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“A deft exploration of the heart and mind that offers the pathos of a Sam Shepard play nested within the unreliable storytelling of Christopher Nolan’s Memento.”

Kirkus Reviews

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“Raises thought-provoking questions about the sometimes conflicting roles ambition, work, and loved ones play in a complex and fulfilled life.”


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“An intriguing and layered medical mystery.”

Quill and Quire

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The Measure of Darkness seems, at first, to be about the mysterious odyssey and follies of a man with a rare neurological syndrome in which the victim cannot perceive half of the world, and worse, doesn’t know he can’t perceive it. Yet, as Liam Durcan’s acutely observed, powerfully poetic prose—which can be sensitive or steely—builds to a gut-wrenching finale, we realize that this man is a metaphor for each of us and we are all haunted by the things we don’t know we don’t know.”

Norman Doidge, author of The Brain That Changes Itself and The Brain’s Way of Healing

Martin, an acclaimed architect, emerges from a coma after a roadside accident to find his world transformed: not only has the commission of a lifetime been taken from him, but his injury has left him with neglect syndrome, a loss of spatial awareness that has rendered him unfit to practice and unable to recognize the extent of his illness. Despite support from his formerly estranged brother and two grown daughters, his paranoia builds, alienating those closest to him. His only solace is found in the parallels he draws between himself and gifted Soviet-era architect Konstantin Melnikov, who survived Stalin’s disfavor by retreating into obscurity. As Martin retraces Melnikov’s life and his own fateful decisions, he becomes increasingly unsettled, until the discovery of the harrowing truth about the night of his accident hurtles him toward a deadly confrontation.

A gripping journey into the depths of a fractured mind, The Measure of Darkness is ultimately a resonant tale of resilience and healing.

Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction Winner

Firecracker Award Finalist 

National Reading Group Month “Great Group Reads” selection

Library Journal “Top Indie Fiction” selection

CBC Radio “Writer to Watch”

Excerpt from The Measure of Darkness

The Measure of Darkness has received the Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction! The novel has also been selected as a “Great Group Read” by the Women’s National Book Association, which celebrates National Reading Group Month through its publication of an annual “amazing list of books perfect for discussion and conversation in any book club.”

Watch neurologist and novelist Liam Durcan discuss The Measure of Darkness here and read more interviews with him in the Globe and Mail and Montreal Gazette.

Listen to Liam Durcan talk about The Measure of Darkness on CBC All in a Weekend.

Tune in to Liam Durcan’s Walrus Talk “Is resilience all in our head?” and read more from him about neurology and the creative process in the Center for Fiction’s SYNTAX/SYNAPSE series.