Top positive review
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3.5 Stars. An Easy, Enjoyable Read.
on 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.