Long Shadows by Sylvie Nickels

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Long Shadows by Sylvie Nickels

Buy Long Shadows by Sylvie Nickels at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The final part of the Another Kind of Loving trilogy sees the acknowledgement of a rather unconventional love complicated by the after-effects of violence - at home and abroad. The evocation of the bombed city of Sarajevo is excellent and particularly poignant.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 296 Date: March 2010
Publisher: Oriole Press
ISBN: 978-951867020

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We first met Minkie and Mike in Another Kind of Loving when Mike, a reporter in war-torn Sarajevo rescued Jasminka from an orphanage and brought her back to leafy Oxfordshire. He and his wife, Sara, fostered the girl, who was known as Minkie because few people could pronounce her real name. They gave her love, security and the opportunity to turn into a beautiful, confident young woman, but whose heart was torn between the family who had done so much for her and her native Sarajevo.

Many years later Mike is a widower – Sara was killed in a car crash – and Minkie is now a single parent. Branka’s father is a Pole, although there is no longer any contact with him, but Minkie and Mike’s relationship has blossomed. It’s no longer the love of parent and child, but a man and a woman. The age difference is irrelevant but whilst Minkie would not hesitate to have a full sexual relationship, Mike is reluctant, despite Minkie’s determination to test him to the limit.

Minkie isn’t the only distraction in Mike’s life. Despite having a life-long hatred of violence evidence is emerging that he might have been responsible for someone’s death. The trouble is that Mike has blanked it out of his mind and cannot recall the incident at all. Other people do have memories though – and some of them are determined that Mike will be brought to justice for what he has done.

Tying up all the loose ends in a trilogy is never easy – particularly when the locations contrast so sharply - but Sylvie Nickels does it with admirable aplomb. Leafy Oxfordshire isn’t a warzone, but Mike’s childhood confidence was tested by the school bullies – and what is war if not bullying on a grand scale? Do you cave in or stand up for your beliefs? Minkie knows what she has to do. In Sarajevo the war must be relegated to the past. Lessons can be learned, but the mood must now be about reconciliation if what has happened in the past is not to be repeated in the future. But where does that leave her and Mike?

Nickels handles the delicate question of the relationship between Mike and Minkie with sensitivity. They are not related, but the fact remains that Minkie grew up as a child in his home. Some people have their doubts about whether a relationship between the two is morally defensible – and Mike obviously has his doubts. He also has a rather questionable interpretation of ‘fidelity’, but it doesn’t leave you liking him any the less – it simply highlights his humanity.

The Balkans are on one of the fault lines of history. It seems that where faith meets faith violence is almost inevitable at some point. The media covers the fighting but gives little attention to the aftermath. We might remember bombed buildings, ancient bridges broken into the torrent below and the devastation of areas most of us remember as tourist destinations. What is so rarely addressed is the effect on the people, not just during the hostilities but afterwards. People who have lived with mortar fire ringing in their ears, with snipers making a simple journey for water all but impossible are different and Nickels captures this superbly. It certainly brought Sarajevo home to me in a way that no amount of media coverage has ever done.

I’d like to thank the author for sending a copy of the book to the Bookbag.

Do read Another Kind of Loving – I couldn’t put the book down. For more on the break-up of the former Yugoslavia we can recommend The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway.

Buy Long Shadows by Sylvie Nickels at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Long Shadows by Sylvie Nickels at Amazon.co.uk

Buy Long Shadows by Sylvie Nickels at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Long Shadows by Sylvie Nickels at Amazon.com.


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