Friday, 7 October 2011

REVIEW: The Double Shadow by Sally Gardner

The Double Shadow by Sally Gardner

If you could live in a place populated only by your happy memories, what would you choose? Wouldn't it be better to live in a place where happy memories play on repeat, you are always 17 and horrible things don't happen?

Amaryllis Ruben doesn't have a choice. It is 1937 and she is 17 - a dangerous age when there are cocktails and unsavoury gentlemen lurking about. It is also becoming clear that the country is about to plunge itself into another devastating war. Her father, Arnold Ruben, doesn't want his daughter to grow up in another war (in fact, he doesn't want his daughter to grow up at all). He has created the memory machine where Amaryllis can stay safe, surrounded by memories (hers and others) that have all the bad bits edited out.  

But by trapping Amaryllis in the past, her father has stolen her future. She is stuck in a limbo, unsure what is real and haunted by half-remembered thoughts. But there is a boy (hurrah!) called Ezra, who she wills herself to remember and who is on his way to find her.  

This is a mysterious, haunting and unusual book that is difficult to put into any category. The most accurate category would probably be sci-fi-historical-surreal-poetic-dreamworld-love-story. The idea of editing your memories is fascinating, but what really makes the story compelling is the individual drama. We delve into the pasts of the characters - pasts that Arnold has plundered to create his machine. For example Amaryllis' teacher, Miss Bright, remembers her fiancee waiting for her at the cinema before he went to war and was killed, so he waits for her again and again in the memory machine. 

Like Non Pratt, as she said in her guest post, I make it my business to fall in love with at least one character per book. In this book I love Ezra. And probably Amaryllis too. They begin with her as the rich spoilt brat and him as the poor, lovely cook's son who is forced to take lessons with her. She's cruel and taunts him and he is supposed to hate her, but of course he doesn't. I spent the book willing Ezra to go and look for Amaryllis (or me). It was a bit like in the last episode of The Office when I screamed at the TV for Dawn to go back to the party and find Tim (it worked) or like when I watch Downton Abbey and think CAN YOU LET ANNA AND BATES JUST BLOODY GET TOGETHER AND BE HAPPY PLEASE. I think when you are reading and willing for two characters to get together it is a pretty sure sign that you've enjoyed the book.

Rating: I have decided to stop doing ratings as I only like talking about books I like, so it is pretty obvious that anything I review on here I think is rather fab. 5 stars!

If you like this, try:
A Little Love Song by Michelle Magorian
Atonement by Ian McEwan
Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick 

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