Monday 14 November 2011

The Double Shadow by Sally Gardner

Pages - 384
Published by Indigo, an imprint of Orion in 2011

Once there was a girl who asked her reflection,'If all I have is fragments of memories and none of them fit together, tell me then, do I exist?'

Goodreads Summary
Arnold Ruben has created a memory machine, a utopia housed in a picture palace, where the happiest memories replay forever, a haven in which he and his precious daughter can shelter from the war-clouds gathering over 1937 Britain. But on the day of her seventeenth birthday Amaryllis leaves Warlock Hall and the world she has known and wakes to find herself in a desolate and disturbing place. Something has gone terribly wrong with her father's plan. Against the tense backdrop of the second World War Sally Gardner explores families and what binds them, fathers and daughters, past histories, passions and cruelty, love and devastation in a novel rich in character and beautifully crafted.
This book really took me by surprise. I didn't realise I would love it quite as much as I did. From the very first chapter, I felt my spine tingling as the picture palace came to life and became  a character in its own right.  I wanted to follow Amaryllis into the picture house too. From the beginning the picture palace, seemed so magical, like an extra from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It is only as you progress through the story that you realise you have been wearing rose tinted glasses and the picture palace has developed a hidden agenda. 

The story is told from multiple points of view, which allowed me to feel like God looking down on all my minions. The author allowed me to flit between their worlds and see straight into their inner most thoughts. This is a time travel book of sorts, but Sally Gardner puts her own unique slant on it, making it a true original. 

You are convinced to begin with that Amaryllis is the main character of the book,then half way through you realise that this was just a ruse, and that really Ezra is the main character. Amaryllis becomes an enigma within the story, leaving everyone on the outside bewildered and confused.  Ezra becomes so strong as he defies the picture palace to discover the truth. At the heart of the book is a  beautiful, innocent love story that even time cannot stop. As time progresses outside the picture palace, you see the true effects that the Second World War had on Great Britain and how people really suffered. 

Sally Gardner writes beautifully. I was in awe of her use of metaphors and similes. You can tell that Sally used to be an illustrator, because when she writes, she not only tells a story, she paints a picture with words. She is so descriptive you not only see the landscape, you step into it. 

Here are some examples.

Unknown to him, his future became mixed with Amaryllis's, so that by the time the oven door was opened, the spell had been well and truly baked, his destiny altered by the making of a cake.

Amaryllis knew her father's furious silence was filled with unspoken words she couldn't help hearing.

Arnold lit a cigarette, inhaled and, an enraged dragon, blew the smoke from his nose.

The book is full of lines and paragraphs like this, which had the writer in me ready to throw my pens and paper in the nearest fireplace, as dreams of being able to write so beautifully were left abandoned in tatters on the floor.  I nearly gave up my NaNoWriMo story because of this book, as I just couldn't see how I could ever write as poetically as Sally Gardner does.

The storyline is original and intriguing.I devoured it in two days and felt like the book had enveloped me and wouldn't free me until all the pieces had been put back into place. The book is breathtaking and original. One that will become a comfort read of the future, a true literary treasure to be enjoyed again and again. 


  1. You sure know how to persuade a girl to pick up a new book, Vivienne. This one sounds AMAZING and I absolutely loved the quotes you shared with us.

  2. This sounds amazing! One more for the wishlist...

  3. Jenni - I loved this book!

    Mari - I should work for Waterstones.

    Nymeth - oh it is a gorgeous book. I loved it so much.

  4. This sounds brilliant. Yet again you've managed to review a book I've never heard of before and got me so fired up about it that I simply have to read it!

  5. Sounds like a thought provoking read, I'll keep an eye out for this one.

  6. Wonderful review! I was blown away by this book too and absolutely loved everything about it.

  7. I want a memory machine that never breaks! This book sounds very thought provoking.

  8. Louise - I am terrible, aren't I! Hehehehe.

    Petty Witter - I do hope people buy this one and read it. It truly is awesome.

    SJH - Exactly! A mind blowing book.

    Bermudaonion - Me too! I have trouble remembering what I had for breakfast.

  9. I love good prose, words that just flow, words that make you ache, and you know you can't write that good.

  10. I like the sound of this one. The quote you gave at the start of the review already got me very interested. Great review!

  11. This one sounds really wonderful. I'm looking forward to reading it!


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