- Audio Download
- Listening Length: 5 hours and 48 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: HarperAudio
- Audible.co.uk Release Date: 2 Feb. 2010
- Language: English
- ASIN: B003834W6E
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank:
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Shadow Tag: A Novel Audiobook – Unabridged
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If you like really first class writing and excellent storytelling, you can't help but be impressed by this novel.
I also have a problem with books that bully me and hector me or try to sell me on the importance of books, and the wonder of books, and the excitement of books, and the great smell of books, without being a particularly good book. Eat your spinach; brush your teeth; love books. Got it. Rather, just put a bunch of neat books out and I'll figure out the importance, wonder and excitement for myself.
I don't mean to sound so nasty, (the illustrations are charming, the intentions are certainly good), but, despite my honest effort, I have not made it all the way to the end of this book with any of my grandchildren. Each one has wiggled out of my lap about half way through, and then returned with a book to be read that he or she actually likes. And the fact that this book doesn't seem to fully engage kids is, after all, the most important point.
Living in a three-story house in metropolitan Minneapolis, Gil and Irene lead a comfortable life, their three children all in private schools, and Irene with enough time to work on a new PhD thesis, this one on George Catlin, the American artist who traveled the west in the 1830s and 1840s making portraits of Native Americans from as many tribes as he could find. Irene is three-quarters Native American; Gil is 1/4 at most, yet both consider themselves Native Americans. Both have grown up in families without fathers, in homes which have not stressed their culture, and neither seems to have developed any inner resources or community ties to help deal with the crises they face on a daily basis in their crumbling marriage.
When Irene discovers that Gil has been reading the Red Diary she keeps in a file cabinet in her basement office, further proof of his need to control, she decides to take revenge, deliberately fabricating stories to shock and hurt Gil. She also opens a safety deposit box in town and makes regular trips to it to write the truth in a Blue Notebook that she has deposited there. As the point of view rotates from the Red Diary through the Blue Notebook to the dramatic observations of a third person, the intensity of the conflict escalates, eventually revealing such personal nastiness that the reader begins to feel uncomfortable, almost voyeuristic.
Erdrich, as always, includes motifs and patterns throughout the novel which add to its significance, and here the use of shadow is pervasive. In the most obvious shadow symbolism, the family spends a moonlit night outside in the snow playing shadow tag. The lack of shadows is symbolic in the conclusion. Whereas many other Erdrich novels soar with theme, this novel is firmly grounded in domestic torments, created with such emotional intensity that I could not help wondering about the extent to which this novel is autobiographical. The novel is hard to read, almost too personal, too open, and as the conflicts develop and emotions run high, the reader is constantly aware that there are many possibilities for ending the novel and resolving the difficulties in this marriage and family. Erdrich's choice of conclusion will disappoint many readers. Mary Whipple
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