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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Memory Machine
The Double Shadow is Sally Gardner's latest novel, targeted at older teens and one of the first releases from Orion's new young adult imprint, Indigo. I've read and loved most of Sally's previous books including the excellent I, Coriander and The Silver Blade as well as her wonderful books for younger children which are reread frequently in our household. This new novel...
Published on 31 Aug 2011 by Lovely Treez

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Complicated and Sinister
The Double Shadow, firstly, is utterly non-linear. You cannot read this book thinking it will make sense from the outset. This definitely put me off because I'm impatient. But as you stick with it, all of the different vignettes and arcs start to coalesce into a single story of multiple layers. It is encompassingly sinister, with little relief: as we begin to piece...
Published on 2 Oct 2011 by Doha


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Memory Machine, 31 Aug 2011
By 
Lovely Treez (Belfast, N Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Double Shadow (Hardcover)
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The Double Shadow is Sally Gardner's latest novel, targeted at older teens and one of the first releases from Orion's new young adult imprint, Indigo. I've read and loved most of Sally's previous books including the excellent I, Coriander and The Silver Blade as well as her wonderful books for younger children which are reread frequently in our household. This new novel is a new venture for Sally as it is aimed at an older age group and is, in the author's own words, " a family sci-fi saga".

Our story begins in 1937 with Amaryllis Ruben, an impetuous, spoilt, almost 17 yr old, being expelled from yet another school. Her father, widowed millionaire Arnold Ruben, hopes to atone for past errors and neglect by bestowing on his only child the "memory machine" which should erase all painful memories and preserve himself and Amaryllis in an alternate world safe from the impending war. However this gift ends up being more of a poisoned chalice and there are nefarious plots afoot to use the device for evil ends.

Sally Gardner has a wondrous almost wizardly way with words, using simple prose infused with touch of magic. Her characters are so vividly present, you can appreciate her talent as an illustrator complementing her skills as a storyteller. The result is a very special novel which sounds like it's very much set in the 1930s yet remains accessible to modern readers. It's a story about relationships, between father and daughter, mother and son, man and wife. It's about love in all its shapes and forms. It's also about memories and how they can both comfort and haunt us, having a life of their own as a double shadow of our own reality.

If you want a novel which eschews current trends in YA literature, no zombies, nor vampires nor post-apocalyptic plains, then you will relish The Double Shadow, a compelling read which will hook you from the opening pages. If you haven't already read any of Sally's other books, I would highly recommend I, Coriander, The Red Necklace and The Silver Blade .
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a uniquely different YA novel, 31 Aug 2011
By 
Kirsty at the Overflowing Library (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Double Shadow (Hardcover)
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I've just finished The Double Shadow and have been left with this feeling that I've read a very clever book but yet I can't quite put into words what I think about it and it might be one of those that I have to keep mulling over for a while while I get it clear in my head.

For me this book had two parts. During the first part the reader meets Amaryllis a lonely teenage girl who lives in a creepy old house with her father. She is on the brink of being chucked out of her latest school and quite confused in herself as she is unable to remember most of her earlier memories. During the first section of this book you get to know her as a character along with all her idiosyncrasies meeting along the way some of the different characters you get to know as the book goes on. During this part you start to find out about her father's memory machine which he built to protect Amaryllis from having to live in a world of bad memories.

The section second of the book launches when something goes wrong with the memory machine trapping several characters within it and setting off a huge fire that engulfs the family home. From here on out the story gets more and more complex as the characters inside and outside of the machine start to explore what has happened. During this part of the story you get a real insight into what it means to have a family and what life was like living during the war. You also get a good idea about loss and how it affects people.

This book is a uniquely different offering in the current YA market which is beautifully written and absorbingly clever.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Double Shadow, 9 Nov 2011
This review is from: The Double Shadow (Hardcover)
I'd previously read and enjoyed Sally Gardner's two historical novels, 'The Red Necklace' and 'The Silver Blade', so had been looking forward to her new offering immensely. This book is very different to anything else she's written but in a good way. Trust me, in a really good way! I enjoyed it so much that even after having finished reading it over a week ago, I still can't stop thinking about it. The plot is so detailed and complex that you'll want to pick it up and re-read it again as soon as you've finished.

What's so amazing about 'The Double Shadow' is the absolute uniqueness and originality of the story, which has sprung from an imagination that I'm seriously envious of. It's totally different from anything else I've read that it really stands out from any other offering currently gracing the shelves in bookshops. The plot and the characters are both multi-layered and as I was reading it, I continually felt that there was always something else waiting to be uncovered.

The first half of the book introduces the reader to Amaryllis Rubens around which most of the pivotal events of the story revolve. Having been expelled from school following an incident with an older man, 16 year old Amaryllis returns home to live with her father. Mixed-up and confused, she wants nothing more than her father's love and attention but he's more interested in spending time working on his invention - a memory machine housed within a picture palace in the grounds of Warlock Hall. With the threat of war coming, he wants to use the machine to not only wipe away Amaryllis's bad memories but to also keep her safe and ensure that everything remains the same for her, even with war on the horizon. The second half of the book deals with the aftermath of the memory machine being activated and the effect this has on not only the people trapped within the machine, but also on those who are left behind.

I found 'The Double Shadow' to be endlessly fascinating. The whole concept of the memory machine was incredible and the idea that someone could build something which could potentially create a three or four dimensional world in which only perfect memories could exist was amazing. Although Amaryllis's father's intentions are good, a major issue in the book is the broken relationship between a father and daughter and how each can be so oblivious to the needs of the other that the very foundation of their bond is lost. Each of them is so consumed with their own world that they isolate themselves and prevent the fragile link between the two of them from being repaired. Another major relationship in the book is between Amaryllis and local boy Ezra and the gradual blossoming of the love between them was wonderful to behold.

The book does deal with some heavy themes which makes it more suited to a slightly older teen audience, but it holds so much appeal that I will be recommending it to everyone! It has an extremely clever narrative and Sally Gardner's writing is both sharp and insightful which made this book a joy to read. The language used is also beautifully poetic at times and I literally savoured every word on the page of this wonderful story. I'm in awe of Gardner's storytelling skills and envious of anyone getting to read this book for the very first time. It's an experience you won't forget!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Complicated and Sinister, 2 Oct 2011
By 
Doha (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Double Shadow (Hardcover)
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The Double Shadow, firstly, is utterly non-linear. You cannot read this book thinking it will make sense from the outset. This definitely put me off because I'm impatient. But as you stick with it, all of the different vignettes and arcs start to coalesce into a single story of multiple layers. It is encompassingly sinister, with little relief: as we begin to piece together the mystery, it gets worse and worse. In book-terms, this is, of course, not necessarily a bad thing.

Confusion aside, the early part of the book paints Amaryllis unsympathetically. She's manipulative, capricious, and...disturbing. Even when something awful happens to her, natural compassion as a reader warred with my character-dislike - which I think is the point. Feelings are not meant to be simple, and Amaryllis is Exhibit A, a proof to the reader that you can never be as secure as you think.

In contrast, Ezra's character is everything Amaryllis isn't, and he provides a counterpoint to her: he is warm, loyal, constant...and real. In time. (This becomes very important in the story when Amaryllis enters the 'Memory Machine' her father makes for her, hoping to create a haven of good memories and protect her from a world on the brink of WW2 - storyline already summarised by previous reviewers.)

I have one significant nitpick, though. The author repeatedly makes reference to dimensions, but makes a crucial mistake. The Memory Machine exists in what she calls 'the fourth dimension', giving time as the *third* dimension. Bad physics: the fourth dimension is time, and therefore the machine should really exist in the FIFTH dimension at least, to be outside of time. Every time the science came up wrong, it was a jarring immersion-breaker. Book-science should be right, and her editor or SOMEONE in the building/her life should have been able to correct that, because it's not even complicated science.

So the moral is, if you're writing a story about time-travel in the real world, you need to sort out your physics.

The Double Shadow is definitely for older readers (it contains themes of sexuality, sexual assault, and so on). I read this hoping for something like 'I, Coriander', which I loved. The Red Necklace and The Silver Blade didn't match up to expectations, and neither does this.

The Double Shadow is too complicated to simply 'like', easily and unconflictingly. It left me with mixed feelings, doubts and compassion, but ultimately, a lot to think about.
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5.0 out of 5 stars yet another stunning Sally Gardner novel, 24 Oct 2014
This review is from: The Double Shadow (Kindle Edition)
The first time I read a Sally Gardner-novel, I was left feeling absolutely breathless and with one thought: ‘I want to be able to string words together with such grace, too!’ I, Coriander was one of the most influential novels of my youth. So, naturally, when I heard that she had written a novel for a more mature audience, I bought it and devoured it. The double shadow managed, as expected, to leave me spell-bound.

The double shadow has two time-lines. The first time-line takes place in an ever-changing wasteland, where a young girl is trapped with a soldier who can only talk about the Great War and making tea. She longs to remember, to understand how she came to be in this strange place and how she can escape, but her memory fails her. What do a green light, a white tiger and a picture palace have to do with her? The second one tells the tale of Amaryllis Ruben, a spoilt girl with no mother. When she was eight a brain fever took all of her memories away, leaving her father devastated and the bond they once shared broken beyond repair. He invests all his time in the making of a memory machine, where memories can be relived over and over again. When Amaryllis is kicked off yet another boarding school, her father decides that she will be home-schooled. He hires a governess and also decides that Ezra, the son of one of his employees, is to be taught together with his daughter, so that she might learn to understand how privileged she really is. Slowly, a bond starts to form between the two. On Amaryllis’ seventeenth birthday, her father gives her the memory machine he has been working on, after which the entire house is consumed by a raging fire. People from Ezra’s village claim to see the picture palace Arnold Ruben built for his little girl appearing and disappearing in the woods. When German planes bring destruction to England, Ezra is contacted by the government to help them find out what happened on that mysterious summer evening.

Sally Gardner knows her way around with words, which is even more impressive when you know that she could not read until she was fourteen because of her dyslexia. Expect lyrical prose such as unknown to him, his future became mixed with Amaryllis's, so that by the time the oven door was opened, the spell had been well and truly baked, his destiny altered by the making of a cake. Gardner knows how to tell what she wants to tell without saying too much or too little. Her descriptions are like little paintings dying to be seen.

I also really liked the characters. Amaryllis behaves irresponsible and mean at times, yet it becomes painstakingly obvious to the reader that this is a desperate cry for attention. She is in need of love, yet no-one around her apart from Ezra’s mother and later Ezra himself seem to notice this. Ezra is a brave boy with a big heart who truly knows what the value of family is and who stops at nothing to make sure that he people he loves are safe. The plot might be somewhat confusing for some readers, switching between different viewpoints, settings and time periods. Personally, I found that this only added to the mystery of the novel.

All in all this novel has so many appealing aspects that propelled it to my top-10 favourite books list and everything we have come to expect from a Sally Gardner-novel. Stay away if you want to read something light, because this story as a lot of elements that make it more complex than its length might suggest, such as rape, identity and human failure. Do read if you enjoy gorgeous prose, complicated characters and an original structure.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing and surprising, 5 Aug 2012
This review is from: The Double Shadow (Hardcover)
I have read Sally Garner's other books ("I Coriander" was wonderful, a real gem) and I thought I knew what to expect from this author. However this story is quite different to her earlier books, it is quite surreal and I loved it. Arnold Rubens, Amaryllis's father had a tough childhood. His own father was mean, narrow minded and cruel to him and so Arnold wants only good things for his much-loved daughter. He wants her to have only good memories, especially after the tragic death of her mother, and he builds a machine to try and ensure that this happens. The plot is complicated but the many twists and turns pull you in, rather like the machine itself. The backdrop of World War II works well, as strange things can and often do happen during wartime. I loved the characters, especially Mrs Pascoe, who cooks for the Rubens, manages to bring up her two children and also cope with her husband who was badly traumatised in World War I. Ezra, her son, is another lovable character - he is a real hero and is prepared to risk everything to rescue Amaryllis, the girl he loves. This book is a great read. It's a mystery, an exciting adventure and also an unusual love story. Definitely a five star read!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing, 19 Mar 2012
By 
ML Jensen (Bath, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Double Shadow (Hardcover)
I'd had the Double Shadow recommended to me several times before I finally read it. The fact that it was published in hardback had something to do with it, because I'm a great fan of Sally Gardner's writing.
This book was quite different to her previous books. Partly historical, partly fantasy, it is at times bewildering but always intriguing. The threads of the story are so cleverly woven together and skillfully revealed, that it makes the story a challenging but engrossing read.
I loved the historical setting; the inter-war and second-world war settings are so well conjured. But I also loved the fantasy element because it made the book so unusual. I'm not sure if I was convinvced by it scientifically, but that never seemed to matter very much - I willingly suspended disbelief. I also enjoyed the rich array of memorable characters. The Double Shadow is a completely different setting to I, Coriander, (one of my all-time favourite books) but the technique of combining history and fantasy is similar. I would highly recommend this book to confident readers over about 13. It is fantastic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A complex read that repays the effort., 10 Dec 2011
By 
Mrs. B. S. Kemp "Beth Kemp" (Leicester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Double Shadow (Hardcover)
Beautiful, haunting and evocative, this is a book to really lose yourself in. Recommended for teens upwards.

This novel is extraordinary. Lyrical, elusive and utterly compelling, it draws you and hooks you long before you have any real sense of exactly what is happening.

When I first read the info about this book, it made me think of Angela Carter - probably because of the surreal machine plan and the uncanny double idea hinted at in the title. That comparison was borne out in the reading, due to the lyrical beauty of Gardner's writing, the surrealism and the mythic sense of symbolism created. But that isn't to say this is a derivative work, by any means. This is a truly original novel with genuine literary quality. It's great to see something so unashamedly literary produced for teens.

The characters of Amaryllis and those around her are beautifully drawn and the period detail (the novel is set largely between the world wars) is informative, creating a realistic backdrop to the crazy memory machine. As well as the gorgeous and imagery-rich writing, we are drawn in by the characters' feelings and behaviour, which, together with the setting provide a grounded realism to support the extravagant fantasy of the memory machine, sited in the picture palace. This glorious building stands as a symbol of the nostalgia and unreality which haunt the inventor Ruben.

The narration shifts around in time, adding an additional layer of complexity to the plot, and contributing to the theme of the nature of memory. These shifts in time are matched with changes in tense, switching between a dreamy and fairytale-like past and an immediate and more charged present, giving a sense of urgency to these sections. The narration is all third person in an omniscient style, adding a further sense of the past due to the old-fashioned tone of this narrative style.

The novel has dark overtones and touches on some unpleasant themes. As Gardner stated in her guest post here as part of the blog tour for this book, the past contains some unpleasant truths and it would be wrong to pretend otherwise and prettify them in writing. This darkness, as well as the novel's complexity, make this a book suitable for teens and adults rather than children. I would strongly recommend it to anyone of around 14 and up.

Thank you to Indigo at Orion for sending this lovely book for review.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A haunting book about the importance of memory, 18 Nov 2011
This review is from: The Double Shadow (Hardcover)
What intrigued me about this book was it's connections to Eliot's The Wasteland, which I read at university. I found it fascinating and I wondered about its echoes in The Double Shadow. While there are some literal references - Amaryllis calls the place outside in the picture palace the wasteland - other references are less literal but still recognisable, such as death by drowning, rape, the transience of memories, life and love and the repercussions of trauma. And those are just the things I picked up on after a surface reread of Eliot's The Waste Land after finishing The Double Shadow. Still, however much influenced by venerable literary forebears, I fell in love with Ms Gardner's creation for its narrative and its characters.

The story shows the importance of memory and how destructive it can be to both be trapped in your memories, like Ezra's father Noel, or to not have them at all, like Amaryllis. Memories are part of one's identity, if you lose your memories, you lose part of your identity. And indeed, much of Amaryllis' behaviour during the first part of the novel can be ascribed to her being a young girl feeling lost and unrooted in her life.

I liked the opposition of Ezra's warm, loving family and Amaryllis' lonely childhood, and that she only feels what it could be like when Mrs. Pascoe, the family cook and Ezra's mum, makes her feel the consequences of her actions--in this case, stealing a cake. This sequence is just a small illustrationof the importance of memories and how they are formed through relationships. Our first memories are built through our relationship with our parents. In The Double Shadow we see a range of parent/child relationships, from the loving relationship between Ezra and his parents, the distant one between Amaryllis and her dad to the abusive situation Arnold grows up in. These relationships, together with the friendships between Ezra and Amaryllis, Arnold and Silas and the dysfunctional marriage of Amaryllis' parents, are pivotal to the story. The memories they engender are the catalyst for all that happens in the novel. From Arnold's decision to built the memory machine, to his decision to put Amaryllis at its heart and Ezra's decision to rescue her.

A double shadow is what separates real people from those created out of the loop memories in the picture palace, but it also seems to be a metaphor for the two wars that shadow this narrative. The novel is bookended by the threat of war. Even though the one is already past and the other still coming, their threat is felt from both sides, due to the repercussions of the Great War and the fear that it'll happen again in the Second World War. The First World War is important because of how it effects Ezra's dad and Silas and Arnold. The Second World War is important for the way it figures in the second part of the novel; it's the reason why it's so important for Sir Basil and Ezra to take the picture palace out.

Apart from two great main characters in Amaryllis and Ezra, Ms Gardner also created a wonderful secondary cast. I particularly loved Ezra's parents, both his loving, no-nonsense mother and his emotionally-damaged, but equally loving father, and Tommy Treacle. Tommy is such a touching character, he is an innocent, who in his unfettered innocence seems to possess a wisdom that many of the adults around him lack. Apart from lovely characters, there are also some wicked baddies, some actually really awful such as Everett Roach, others more of an everyday awfulness, such as Ezra's nosy, gossip-y neighbour Mrs Calthorpe. Since so much of the book revolves around relationships, memories and their consequences, a cast of strong characters is indispensable. Luckily Ms Gadner has created a very strong cast of characters across the board and none of them drop the ball in this intricate dance of memory and reality.

The Double Shadow is a haunting book, one which I had trouble putting down at night and couldn't wait to get back to. Ms Gardner's writing is strong and sure and she is ever in control of her story. One of the strongest YA novels I've read this year and one that most adults would enjoy too. Another new author discovered this year and another three books of backlist I need to get my hands on!

This book was sent to me for review by the publisher.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Memory Machine, 19 Oct 2011
By 
elkiedee "elkiedee" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Double Shadow (Hardcover)
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The Double Shadow is a mixture of historical and fantasy fiction with a little romantic spice thrown in.

It is 1937. A wealthy, eccentric inventor is planning an unusual present for his daughter Amaryllis' 17th birthday - a memory machine. However, to make it he has stolen many of her memories, leaving her an angry, disturbed young woman. When the machine is revealed there is an explosion. Amaryllis and Ezra, a young man from the village, find themselves with a very unlikely mystery to solve.

This is beautifully written with an interesting cast of characters, but I did find some bits of it rather confusing. There is so much going on, and there are a lot of names, and it jumps about in time and between characters. I was curious about a fantasy novel set in the late 1930s, just before WWII, but this isn't really historical fiction, though there is a wonderfully loathsome English Fascist villain.

It is an unusual adventure story for readers of 14 upwards (and will probably be enjoyed by adults of all ages too).
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The Double Shadow
The Double Shadow by Sally Gardner (Hardcover - 3 Nov 2011)
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