The Double Shadow by Sally Gardner

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The Double Shadow by Sally Gardner

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Amy Taylor
Reviewed by Amy Taylor
Summary: With a cast of glamorous, and warm-hearted characters this is a fast paced adventure, set during the Second World War, about a girl and a boy, and a memory machine that could alter time forever.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: November 2011
Publisher: Indigo
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1780620121

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Longlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2013

In 1937 Amaryllis Ruben is about to turn seventeen. As a present, her father, Arnold Ruben, a widowed, multi-millionaire, is going to give his daughter his life long work, an invention that could alter time forever, a memory machine. It can capture the good, erase the bad, and keep you young for all time. But things aren't going to plan; apart from Amaryllis not wanting it, other people have taken an interest, and not in a good way.

This is a fast paced adventure of a book. On one hand it's a love story between a boy and a girl who hate each other, and on another, it's a mystery of the impossible waiting to be solved (and not by Sherlock Holmes). It starts not at the beginning, but somewhere near the end, with Amaryllis who seems to be in a strange place (another world?), maybe connected to the war, but maybe not, and immediately you're hooked. And as it backpedals in time to a seemingly younger, spoilt, Amaryllis, in a different setting, it keeps you hooked.

Narrated in third person, there is a whole cast of characters, of all ages and backgrounds, that sweep you off your feet – the good, the bad, and just the plain nosey. The author has a sympathetic yet witty way of portraying characters with simple prose and dialogue that hints at the period of time. Annoyingly I liked the way the chapters, each with a title, changed from person to person, scene to scene, leaving you hanging, before coming round again to clear up a matter, and plot another clue.

The plot I have to say is predictable, but because of the pace of the story it doesn't give you much time to think about it, and not necessarily in a bad way, for maybe you are meant to guess just that little bit before the characters do. The idea of a memory machine is a good one but when it came to what could really happen with such an invention my expectations were a little let down, as the plot was built up to a bigger ending, which for me was rounded up too quickly. You could say there were few surprises, or that it was meant to turn out that way.

What it does focus on, and what stood out to me, is the interactions and relations between people. The questions we sometimes don't ask, that maybe we should, and how over time memories really can have a life of their own – their own shadow to play you the scenes you might have forgotten. It is a warm hearted, old-fashioned book in many ways, of people coming together when the world is at war. And at the same time there is the excitement of growing up, falling in love, and exploring the unknown.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

Further Reading: If you are new to Sally Gardner why not try The Silver Blade – an atmospheric thriller, or if you fancy something that involves different worlds why not try The Bloodstone Bird by Inbali Iserles?

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Buy The Double Shadow by Sally Gardner at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Double Shadow by Sally Gardner at


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