26/09/2011

Shadow Child (by Libby Purves)

I've very much enjoyed several novels by Libby Purves, over the past years. She is an incisive, hard-hitting writer who can nevertheless create believable characters that I care about and draw me right into her stories.

I was not entirely sure how I would feel about 'Shadow Child', having read the blurb and some reviews at Amazon. I knew it was about someone suffering from a tragedy which Purves herself had suffered, and which I felt might trigger nightmares. Still, I added it to my wishlist, and was unexpectedly given it recently.

I read it last week, and found it very moving. Marion, a fifty-something woman narrates this story, which begins several months after she and her husband Tom suffered a devastating tragedy which is still affecting them in many ways. Marion has a supportive friend called Sarah, and seems to be coming to terms with her loss gradually.

Out of the blue, Tom comes into contact with the miltant man-hating Djoolia in a disturbing encounter. That starts an amazing train of events that lead Marion into seeing lifestyles and living conditions she had never dreamed of, while Tom reacts in very different ways. It seems for a while as if the two are drifting further and further apart.

It's hard to say more without giving anything away; suffice it to say that this is a powerful and moving book, which delves into several controversial issues, revealing different attitudes and reactions in a realistic way. Most of all, though, it shows how there can be lovable, genuine people in unexpected places.

The main plot-line is perhaps too much of an ideal way forward and might even be considered as giving false hope to others in Marion's situation; a few unlikely coincidences happen too, and yet they are not impossible ones. In the context of this moving story, I didn't have a problem with them.

'Shadow Child' has a great writing style, with excellent pace, and I found it difficult to put down at times.

Definitely recommended to anyone who is able to be open-minded - there was a lot to make me ponder in this book. Oddly enough, it is currently out of print in the USA, despite only having been published a year ago. It is available for the Kindle, although links above are to inexpensive second-hand paperback editions.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 26th September 2011

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