Customer Reviews


35 Reviews
5 star:
 (15)
4 star:
 (9)
3 star:
 (4)
2 star:
 (4)
1 star:
 (3)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant psychological historical drama
SHADOW opens in 1975 with the discovery of a four-year old boy who has been abandoned in a park. The boy, Kristoffer, is bought up by foster parents, and when an adult becomes an addict and drifter. The only thing that connects him with his forgotten childhood is his receipt of money every month until he is 18 - a small amount but sufficient to fund his dissolute...
Published on 2 Feb 2011 by Maxine Clarke

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Depressing and didn't hold my interest
This book takes a very dim view of human nature. The story is intriguing but ultimately just depressing, with its focus on anguished writers, and subtext that art can only come from the unhappy and tortured soul. There are very few smpathetic chatacters -and those who appear,do so only briefly. Also, the Kindle version is entirely in italics, making it VERY hard to read.
Published on 25 Nov 2011 by R Cotterill


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant psychological historical drama, 2 Feb 2011
By 
Maxine Clarke "Maxine of Petrona" (Kingston upon Thames, Surrey United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Shadow (Paperback)
SHADOW opens in 1975 with the discovery of a four-year old boy who has been abandoned in a park. The boy, Kristoffer, is bought up by foster parents, and when an adult becomes an addict and drifter. The only thing that connects him with his forgotten childhood is his receipt of money every month until he is 18 - a small amount but sufficient to fund his dissolute lifestyle. When the money dries up, he realises that this is a chance for a fresh start. He's obsessed and intensely ashamed by his past, but he determines to clean himself up and become a writer. He befriends another struggling young author, Jesper, and the two provide each other with some mutual support. Kristoffer, however, is too repressed to tell anyone that he was abandoned and rejected, and that he has no idea who he is.

A 92-year-old woman, Gerda, dies in her flat. As she seems to have no relatives or friends, Marianne from the social services department is put in charge of sorting out Gerda's affairs and organising her funeral. During the course of this process, she discovers that Gerda lived for most of her adult life as the maid of Axel Ragnerfeldt, a Nobel laureate for literature, and his family. Axel is now an old man, paralysed by a stroke and unable to communicate except by moving his little finger. Marianne therefore contacts Axel's son, Jan-Erik, who has made a profession of setting up a foundation in his father's name, and who goes around giving lectures and readings from his books. Jan-Erik is trapped in a loveless marriage, which he does not leave because of the terms of his father's will.

As this compelling book progresses, we learn more of the history of four generations of the Ragnerfeldt family, the dynamics and secrets between husbands, wives, parents and children, as well as the professional rivalries between friends. The connection between the Ragnerfeldts and Kristoffer becomes slightly less obscure when we learn of a literary evening in which a younger Axel and his friend and fellow-author Torgny meet a beautiful young woman called Halina. She is a survivor of the Holocaust who has a terrible past. In her first scene, she tells Axel a fable, and asks him which of the five characters in it is the "least wrong". Axel's answer is prophetic; subsequent events play out the fable, with each character in SHADOW taking the role of the people in Halina's story.

One often reads the word "unputdownable" to describe a book - it is certainly a true description of this one. As the novel reaches its climax, I was on the edge of my seat, my heart was pounding, and by the end I felt wrecked. It has strong parallels with Wuthering Heights, in which two "normal" people (Gerda as Nelly Dean and Marianne as Lockwood) are the filter through which the reader experiences elemental, horrifically tragic and passionate events that are beyond the witness-narrators' comprehension.

This superb novel has so many layers and depths, concerning the biological and societal adaptations of consciousness; the experiences and consequences of the process of creative writing, its "success" and "failure"; an empathy and confidence in describing historical events; and the emotions of friendship, betrayal, passion and rage, simmering and erupting in a seemingly placid environment. The characters, whether central or subsidiary, are all rounded, and even the unsympathetic ones are given full opportunity to present their point of view. I was particularly impressed with the depictions of Kristoffer, whose desperate search for the meaning of his life through his past is unbearably tragic; the brave Halina, who struggles to transcend the ineradicable scars of her horrific past life, overcoming one terrible setback but encountering another awful one once she meets Axel; and Jan-Erik's sad wife Louise. The icing on the cake is that the plot is complete, clever, convoluted and convincing - the author does not flinch from following it through to the bitter end.

SHADOW is a brilliant and rich book, which has had a tremendous impact on me. I urge you to read it as soon as you can.

Review first published at the Euro Crime website.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well-written page-turner - designed to make you anti-social for a day or two, 29 April 2011
By 
A Common Reader "Committed to reading" (Sussex, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Shadow (Kindle Edition)
Shadow, by Karin Alvtegen is an example of a book that only a few years ago would have been lost to English speakers, but one good thing about the "Dragon Tattoo" thing is that publishers seem to be queuing up to support translations of other Scandinavians and put them on our shelves and e-readers.

It is very difficult to classify this book. It is not really a "crime novel", although a serious crime is disclosed (but not until towards the end of the book). Its not a family saga either, although the story spans four generations of a family. Neither is it a thriller, for its story is low-key and almost rambling at times. The plotting is complex and draws the reader through many layers of unravelling until it all comes together in the last chapters. From the reviewers point of view its almost impossible to describe without spoiling it (but read on, I won't do that).

There is a strong literary theme to this book. It centres around the life and work of fictional Nobel Prize winner Axel Ragnerfelt, not in his old age and paralysed after a serious stroke, so that he can only communicate by moving the little finger of one hand. The Nobel prize has been given because of Ragnerfelt's message of eternal human values which pervades his work, and this is so unique that his son Jan Erik has made a career out of developing a charitable foundation in his father's name and travelling around the globe delivering inspirational talks which spread a message of tolerance and hope.

But slowly we find that all is not quite as it seems. The Rangernfelt's long-serving house-keeper dies without relatives or friends and a representative of the public trustee is sent to tidy up her affairs. A will is found bequeathing her estate to Kristoffer Sandeblom a man nobody has heard of, a struggling play-wright, who life has run in parallel to Jan Eriks, but without the success.

Karin Alvtegen draws her readers into the connections between all these people, her story moving back and forth from Axel's life and Jan Erik's as we learn that all is not quite as it seems. Drama increases throughout until at the end of the book we are confronted with a page-turning denouement which made this reader at least want to applaud the author for her skill in starting with so many disparate themes and ending up with a startling resolution to all of them, much like the climax to an orchestral symphony.

I don't often enjoy a book quite as much as this one. Its pretty damned good as they say. Its a literate read and the characters are wholly believable and very complex. I kept feeling that the book must have been written by a man for Karin Alvtegen seems to have burrowed deep into the male psyche and understood some typically male aspects of the motivations of ambition, sex, family and wealth. Not to say that men and women can't write about the opposite sex, its just that in Shadow, the male characterisation is totally convincing.

2011 has seen me reading five Scandinavian novels so far and I am yet to be disappointed. Karin Alvtegen is a name I will add Sofi Oksanen, Jo Nesbo, Arnaldur Indridason as writers to watch out for when I want a book to devour in a few sittings.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellence once again..., 1 May 2009
By 
bloodsimple (nottingham, uk) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Shadow (Paperback)
I'm a big Alvtegen fan. I like her refusal to resort to stunts, explosions, chases or other dramatic ploys to make her point. I like her habit of pursuing the character as they psychologically fall apart. I admire her ability to blend the pressures of society and the reactions of individuals into a convincing mix. All three characteristics are present in this work.

This is not a book for people who like a fast-paced thriller. But stick with it. The revelations will come, but Alvtegen is sure to send you into the minds of the characters first. This is what distinguishes her work from many other thriller writers - the narrative springs out of the character's mind, rather than the characters reacting to action.

Flaws? I loved the whole story of Jesper Falk, and for me that could (and should) have been turned into a book in its own right. Over and above that, I'm a happy reader, although Shame remains my favourite Alvtegen novel.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Depressing and didn't hold my interest, 25 Nov 2011
By 
R Cotterill (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Shadow (Paperback)
This book takes a very dim view of human nature. The story is intriguing but ultimately just depressing, with its focus on anguished writers, and subtext that art can only come from the unhappy and tortured soul. There are very few smpathetic chatacters -and those who appear,do so only briefly. Also, the Kindle version is entirely in italics, making it VERY hard to read.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Another boring Scandinavian translation, 8 Sep 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Shadow (Paperback)
I am sure all scandinavian books can't be so dark and drawn out. Not quite as bad as Jo Nesbo but still dreary. A good plot was marred by poor characterisation, you need to sympathise or identify with someone in a book, and plodded its way to the end. Maybe better in the original language, I will never know. I read this on a kindle free download so it was well priced. Dose not seem to be available on Kindle now.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What can or might happen when good people do nothing...,, 28 Aug 2011
This review is from: Shadow (Paperback)
I think that Karen Alvtegen's crime novels are best described as 'slow-burners', crime novels where the crime isn't immediately obvious, where there are rarely any clear solutions and where, in the end, it isn't always clear if good or evil has prevailed.

This, for me, made 'Shadow' a very good weekend read and also a crime novel which merits some philosophical reflection: in the world that Alvtegen creates it seems that no one is inherently bad, but yet bad things happen and before long have transmuted into dark shadows that lurk menacingly in the corners of the room.

The story begins with the death of an elderly woman who, on first appearances, seems to have died alone in the world. As the care authorities go through her papers in an attempt to find some mourners for her funeral, some bizarre and unexpected connections are revealed, most intriguing of which are those which highlight a literary family who are highly regarded in the country.

As the story progresses, it's as if each revelation sets of a small bomb that in turn ignites another small bomb. Individuals have no choice but to face the past, in the varying degrees with which they are capable - a difficult task for each of them.

To say any more would be giving the story away...

I wouldn't usually suggest that a crime novel would be a good book club read, but I think that there's enough in this to make some interesting discussions on what can or might happen when good people do nothing.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The greatest crime..., 6 May 2011
By 
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Shadow (Kindle Edition)
A great exhalation of breath escaped me when I finished Karin Alvtegen's tour de force, Shadow. I was quite literally exhausted. I could not put my Kindle down for the last three hours, my shoulders were tense with concentration, there was relief that there was just a little promise that retribution would finally strike the protagonists of this deep, dark story. Those that escaped, at least. And I was left wondering what was the greatest crime committed in this tale...

So many characters asking for help, do we always pass them by? Are we really all self-serving, selfish and unloving? Certainly there was no person in this book that I could identify with or admire. And again, as so often in Scandinavian literature, there are so many alcohol dependent people - it must be the climate and the months of semi-night that lead to this darkness of spirit. Why do we never see an equivalent brightness of spirit when the months brighten to the twenty-two hour days that must follow? I suppose that does not appeal to the writers - and when the hours are light, perhaps that is not when they knuckle down to their manuscripts.

But, it was a wonderful book, one that I recommend to anyone who want to re-examine their own life and desires and also one I recommend to those who enjoy tense fiction of the highest calibre. A compelling psychological study of what lengths people go to in order to achieve fame and how this insidiously affects those who share or maybe merely touch their lives.

The prose was remarkable. Surely written in English, not translated? And then I found that it was, indeed, translated by McKinley Burnett and he deserves a special mention for this flawless rendering of, at times, very poetic prose.

My only gripe - the Kindle edition was written in italic script, which I found very hard to read quickly.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, 26 Sep 2010
By 
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Shadow (Paperback)
The book begins with a child being abandoned. He has been told not to move so he obediently remains where he is for hours. A note is found on him which reads "Please take care of this child". Luckily he is rescued but this unhappy incident has a profound effect on his life.

The main character is Axel Ragnerfeldt a writer of beautiful inspiring books. He is highly regarded but suffers eventually from writer's block. How he overcomes this causes great unhappiness to him and to others.

As he ages and becomes frail his son, Jan-Erik, tours the country talking about his father's books and manages to put over the emotion and wonder with his storytelling instincts. In this way he draws to his bed women who are spellbound by these wonderful lectures.

Underlying all this is the tension caused by lies, a murder is committed and others become involved in the tensions caused by the instinct to remain highly thought of in the eyes of the public.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book, 28 Aug 2010
This review is from: Shadow (Paperback)
I bought this book because I'm deeply in love with the Nordic Culture, but I didn't honestly expected this book to be that good and the sad. The story of the most famous and celebrated family in the whole Sweden covers some (lots of!) sad and untold events that let you full with despair. I actually ended to think that nothing in the world looks the way it really is, and this made me think a lot.

The story is powerful, occasionally over-intricated but it continously keeps your attention. I think this is one of the most beutiful books I've read in this last year.

(Forgive me for my English)

Alex, from Italy
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A dark family indeed, 24 Jun 2010
By 
Jane Baker "jan-bookcase" (Somerset) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Shadow (Paperback)
The most chilling but compelling novel I have read this year. It is really the story of the lost Kristoffer, yet he doesn't appear until mid-way through. There is something sinister about the Ragnerfeldt family from the beginning yet it is difficult to see where the story is going. One could not imagine the depths of deceit, secrecy and betrayal an individual could stoop to. This is an amazing book which Alvtegen crafts with panache towards a shattering denouement. Brilliant.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Shadow
Shadow by Karin Alvtegen (Paperback - 4 Feb 2010)
6.09
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews