In Her Shadow by Louise Douglas
|In Her Shadow by Louise Douglas|
|Category: Women's Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: Louise Douglas demonstrates how childhood, supposedly the happiest time in a life, can go dramatically awry, affecting three people's pasts and presents. This is a dramatic novel that defies you to put it down; I was more than happy not to.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 384||Date: July 2012|
|Publisher: Bantam Press|
|External links: Author's website|
Hannah has had one nervous breakdown due to unbearable guilt and seems on course for a second. How else can she explain the fact that the still dead Ellen seems to be following her around? It all started two decades earlier...
Hannah Brown's childhood has everything – loving parents, a stable home and a beautiful Cornish setting. On the other hand, her friend Jago next door survives moment to moment, living with an aunt and uncle who are as abusive to each other as they are to him. However Hannah and Jago have something in common: friendship with Ellen Brecht.
Ellen arrives one summer with her parents to live in her late grandmother's house. Accomplished, musical and stunningly pretty, she seems to have all anyone could wish but Hannah is puzzled by some of the things that Ellen says. They must be lies as they don't make sense. Gradually the truth is revealed; a truth that will end in adolescent Ellen's death.
When Louise Douglas isn't working as a copywriter she's writing award winning novels. Both her first and second books, The Love of My Life and Missing You were regaled with honours and one feels that for this, Louise's fourth book, it's only a matter of time.
In Her Shadow is told from Hannah's perspective as she tries to live her life, working at Bristol's prestigious City Museum and supporting her colleagues, whilst suppressing a childhood that still haunts her both figuratively and, indeed, where Ellen's presence is concerned, literally. Hannah was initially attracted to Ellen by difference. Hannah had a settled home and happy but almost staid, mundane parents. Whereas Ellen's home was full of music and artistic temperament; anything but staid and therefore anything but dull making it so very attractive to a burgeoning teen.
The psychology behind the girls' relationship with each other and, indeed, Jago, bristles with authenticity; that adolescent friction, envy and jealousy can be confirmed by any parent. We feel Hannah's inability to voice her feelings for Jago whilst hoping he understands and the inevitable crushing that occurs once hopes aren't reflected in real life and yet at the same time we can't blame Jago for not realising. There's also so much that rings true about Ellen, but that way lies spoiler country so I won't elaborate.
The story's adults are also spot on: you slowly realise that the role of the housekeeper isn't entirely that of cleaning and fetching and as for Peter Brecht, Ellen's father, he's practically a master class in producing writing depth into a character. This is only the first layer of the story, though.
On top of the friendships, personality quirks and backgrounds, Louise Douglas layers on atmosphere. The first thing we're told is that Ellen is dead and the rest of the story crescendos into how, why and the aftermath and, trust me, crescendo is the word.
It all begins innocently enough but the inevitable darkness soon starts to build in a demonstration of how beliefs and perception can be cruelly manipulated. Hannah is a child rationalising something that's beyond her experience and therefore she misunderstands totally. However, as adults, we realise sooner than she does and, as we witness the web spreading, can only feel helpless horror. This isn't the zombie-on-the-high-street type of horror, but the stomach dropping reaction to suffering. Slowly the story builds like a storm, engaging the emotions as well as the mind and then the storm breaks...
Once drawn in to this novel, you may not want to go anywhere till it's finished but you'll be well rewarded. The journey itself may be as compelling as a chocolate cake but the eye-dabbing ending is the definite cherry on top. Enjoy!
I would like to thank Bantam Press for providing Bookbag with a copy of this book for review.
If you've enjoyed this then the world of Louise Douglas awaits. If you've read her back catalogue or would rather read how another author deals with young people working through life's more extreme problems, try Life! Death! Prizes! by Stephen May.
You can read more book reviews or buy In Her Shadow by Louise Douglas at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy In Her Shadow by Louise Douglas at Amazon.com.
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