I’m not sure where to start with The Double Shadow.
I almost gave up after the first few chapters – I felt they were unnecessarily obtuse and difficult. But Sally Gardner’s reputation made me pick it up again a few days later.
And I was hooked. A memory story will always suck me in and one written as beautifully and as gracefully as this one is just icing on the top. But it’s not an easy read.
This story is tragedy with a capital T. We have messed up childhoods, war, betrayal, abuse, neglect, death and a father who loves his daughter so much he wants to build a machine that will erase all the bad memories and leave her with only the happy ones.
The sadness that pervades this story is ultimately redeemed by the power of love. Love comes to the rescue, love overcomes and loves leads the way forward out of the haunting mess created by the memory experiments.
The Double Shadow is a challenging fable for mature readers. It is not an easy book to categorise. It is historical fiction as it is set during the period of time between the two World Wars and the memory experiments play around with time as well as memory. But strictly speaking this book stands alone – and mercifully it is a story sans vampires, wolves or dystopian drama!
Arnold Ruben has created a memory machine, a utopia housed in a picture palace, where the happiest memories replay forever, a haven in which he and his precious daughter can shelter from the war-clouds gathering over 1937 Britain. But on the day of her seventeenth birthday Amaryllis leaves Warlock Hall and the world she has known and wakes to find herself in a desolate and disturbing place. Something has gone terribly wrong with her father’s plan.
Against the tense backdrop of the second World War Sally Gardner explores families and what binds them, fathers and daughters, past histories, passions and cruelty, love and devastation in a novel rich in character and beautifully crafted.