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The Book of Shadows Paperback – 2 Feb 2009
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About the Author
Paula Brackston runs creative writing classes and workshops, is a script reader for a film company, and sells her short stories. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her travel book 'The Dragon's Trail' is a journal of her month long horseback trek around Wales. Her autobiographical writing has been published in anthologies -'Even The Rain Is Different', 'Strange Days Indeed', and 'In Her Element'. In 2006 she was shortlisted in the Creme de la Crime Search for new writers. She lives half way up a Brecon Beacon with her partner and their two children. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
This is a fast-paced and engrossing tale, and Paula Brackston has undoubted literary talent. She keeps a tight hold on the narrative and ties all the different episodes in together with a deft touch. I kept turning the pages and found myself engrossed in the story. Certainly a book group would find plenty to discuss here, with the themes of witchcraft and healing, war and medicine.
However, I do have a couple of criticisms. For a start the book needs the attention of a good editor (a perennial gripe of mine - where are all the good editors?) There are some infelicitous expressions - viridian grasses, fescued fields. Someone in the 17th century section is called a "lech" - which is surely an anachronism - and later on p329 someone in described as having the audacity "to letch". On both occasions the word jars - as well as being spelled inconsistently. The otherwise fluent writing now and again descends into cliché, particularly in the war episodes, the part of the book where Paula Brackston seems least comfortable.
But these are minor quibbles compared to the main one, which is the magic in the book. Now obviously this is a fantastical tale and in order to enjoy it we have to suspend our disbelief. And most of the time that is easy enough to do. The narrative is compelling enough for that. But every so often the author's imagination seems to run away with her. There is no need for the monstrous creatures that turn up on a couple of occasions and most certainly not for the troupe of sparkly fairies who lend a farcical element to an otherwise important scene. The book deals relatively realistically with witchcraft and just doesn't need these rather silly additions. And I'm quite sure anyone truly interested or involved in Wicca wouldn't be too impressed.
Nevertheless, on the whole I found it an enjoyable book, and for a first novel has much to recommend it.
The Book of Shadows
When one reads`My name is Elizabeth Anne Hawksmith and my age is 384years. Each new settlement asks for a new journal, and so this Book of Shadows begins`, then one knows this will be an unusual story , and so it is- gripping and compulsive ,as are the two main characters, whose lives are intertwined through several lifetimes.
If this is Paula's first novel, then I await the publication of her next with great anticipation.
However, I also thought the author tried too hard. Whilst each of the three stories are beautifully written, they were too short to really engage with the subject matter. This is partially to do with the fact that these stories hinged around significant events, including the Salem Witch trials together with plague, Jack the Ripper and early surgical techniques, and the horrors of nursing during World War One - there simply was not sufficient time/pages to devote to such large subjects in my opinion. As a result I did not engage with the characters that arose in those stories. This was disappointing as one of those characters was a main love interest.
I am also left with questions. If she ages 5 years for every hundred - surely she will eventually die and is not therefore immortal. If she wants to remain hidden from Giddeon, why she she keep using variants of her name for each person? I could mention others, but you get the idea.
As a whole this was a fair debut, but the lack of experience shows. I think Paula Brackston will have a positive literary future ahead of her merely due to her ideas alone. However, she needs to refine her craft and not attempt to be a master of all trades in order to truely be successful.
A final thought is that I suspect this novel (The Book of Shadows) is the original title of 'The Witch's Daughter'. I was not sure and initially thought these were two different stories.
I feel the author may have done better to have gone with the idea that 'less is more' or should have split this story over a series, because there certainly is room and scope to do so with this idea.
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