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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 7 November 2011
Jennifer Johnston is one of Ireland's foremost writers and she has won several prizes for her novels over her long career. Her awards include: The Whitbread Prize, The Yorkshire Post Award Best Book of the Year (twice) and she has also been shortlisted for the prestigious Booker Prize.

'Shadowstory' is her latest novel and starts in the Second World War with the main character, Polly, being sent to her paternal grandparents who live in Kildarragh, an old, gently decaying family house by the sea in Ireland. Polly's father is tragically killed at the end of the war and when her mother remarries and has two further children, Polly escapes to her grandparents' home whenever she can. There she spends long, languorous holidays playing, sailing, picnicking and being teased by her Uncle Sam, who is only five years older than her. As both Polly and Sam grow older, Polly is unable to spend as much time at Kildarragh as she would like, but she and Sam grow closer nevertheless. When one day Sam tells Polly he is in love with her, she is a little surprised at first, but she soon begins to realize that she feels the same. However, there is no immediate happy ending for the two of them, as Sam has plans and ambitions that do not include settling down and living in the family home. And then, when Sam is supposed to be studying at Cambridge, something happens -I can't explain further otherwise I shall spoil the story.

Jennifer Johnston has a flair for language and her characterizations are particularly good. Her books are about human relationships; relationships between parents and children, between married partners, between lovers and amongst friends. Her stories are usually written with sensibility, without being overly sentimental; however, if I am absolutely honest, I must say I found `Shadowstory' to be just a little too romantically sentimental for me - that is not to say that I did not enjoy the story, I did. It is a lovely tale of a young girl's coming of age and is a wonderful, old fashioned family story. It is an easy, light read without being inconsequential and, although some of the events in this book are not entirely convincing, this does not detract from the story. I think this novel would make an enjoyable bedtime, holiday or fireside read and, as such, has been bagged by my sister for her winter holiday.

3.5 Stars
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 26 September 2013
A story firmly sited in the upper-middle classes in Ireland - oddly unfocused, without much impetus but also life-like and often endearing. It seems to demonstrate love as pre-eminently familial, restrained, it's heavy shadows something to be afraid of, something to be avoided. A strong family ethos seems to demand constraint. So, as Harry loves a Roman Catholic girl, daughter of the family doctor, they do not marry because Harry comes to see that his grandfather is right in stressing that freedom is more important than love. Bafflingly, the narrative suggests that Polly, and her Uncle Sam (who is only five years older than her) are drawn to each other but plays with the idea that they are in love. The moment comes very late in the novel, when they are seated together on a settee, with many of the other characters present. Sam plays with Polly's fingers, in his other hand a glass of whisky. Something about this scene suggests their attraction. But Johnston stops it flat. What a tease!

Oddly unsatisfying, the novel hovers between suggesting love is all-important, and rejecting it. Only the family, as a kind of static entity, is important. This rigidity of attitudes leaves the book without a real, moving and active centre. The characterisation is good, and the writing is nothing if not literary, but I questioned why it seemed so full of love, but empty of meaning and action. I was disappointed by the ending in particular, which left the narrator, Polly, on the cusp of aduilthood, yet locked into her adolescent fantasies. It ended too soon, and on a note of fading dismay that nullified much of the fine writing that had gone before. It has an element of a curtain being drawn. As if Johnston is saying: there you go - that's all you're getting. If you want any more, make it up yourself.
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on 30 October 2012
Words flutter as leaves from an Autumn tree to effortlessly create a simple story of past times in Ireland. A magic piece of writing.If only all writing had this quality!
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on 18 January 2013
On of Ireland's best modern writers. I have read all her books whick deal with many issues in Ireland. I thouroughly enjoyed this story of a young girl who idolises her uncle who is not much older than she is . He misteriously leaves Ireland for many years, but she secretly meets him many years later and she is sworn to keep it secret. A fascinating story of an Irish family and their relationships.
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on 22 November 2015
A book to be read in candlelight, a fine cotton handkerchief clutched in one's hand. Lyrical, lovely and heartbreaking And typical Jennifer Johnston.
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on 19 January 2013
I have been a fan of Johnston's work for many years, but I feel this is not up to her usual high standards
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on 4 September 2014
Book in good condition would use again
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