4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Dark, complex and powerful,
This review is from: Red Shift (Paperback)
This is a complex, ambiguous and intense read that remains enigmatic right to the very end. While ostensibly written as a children's book it is very different from Garner's Elidor, for example, which is far simpler and easier to `get' (though it is still a great book which terrified me as a child).
Red Shift consists of three narratives: Jan and Tom, the teenage lovers who are misunderstood by his parents; Macey and his band of military brothers on the run amongst enemy factions; and Thomas and Marge, caught up in what seems to be the Reformation civil wars. All three are replete with literary and historical echoes - Romeo and Juliet, King Lear, Roman invasions of Britain, Vietnam (this was published in 1967), Cromwell and the religious wars of the reformation - and yet the timeframes are never delineated and the stories float in a kind of timeless space. By the end the three coalesce and cannot be unwound from each other in the final pages.
At heart each story is about love, betrayal, violence and pain. I almost dreaded the end (especially of the Jan/Tom story) and yet it is all so right and fitting when it comes. Be warned, this is a book with very little exposition and practically no scene-setting: as readers we are thrust into the narrative and have to navigate our own way through the text. There are pages of no more than pure dialogue (no `he said' `she said' here) so if you dislike this style of writing this might be one to avoid. But it would be a shame since this really is a marvellous feat of imagination and pure writing, which also forces the reader to work imaginatively hard. A great book for a teenager and one which really opens up the delights of literature.