Apr 8, 2015

The Double Shadow by Sally Gardner

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.

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Amaryllis is a troubled teenager. She's sixteen years old and has no memory of the first eight years of her life. Her father is strict from afar as he isn't around much and her mother passed away when Amaryllis was a young girl. After a disastrous night Amaryllis is being kicked out of boarding school. Her father decides to hire someone to tutor her instead of sending her away again. Her new teacher is very smart, but Amaryllis has no interest in the lessons. Her father hires Ezra, the son of their cook, to keep her company and to attend the lessons which will be good for his education. 

Amaryllis will soon be seventeen. It's 1937 and in Britain there are already signs of an inevitable war. There's something else of major importance happening in her father's picture palace as well. When at the night of a fire several people disappear there's a man called Basil who's starting to ask questions. He's been keeping an eye on the memory machine Amaryllis's father has built for many years and is now afraid the idea might fall in the wrong hands. When more people disappear and aren't coming back it's clear that something isn't right, it isn't right at all.

The Double Shadow has been published by Orion Children's Books and this is one of those rare gems that can easily become a classic. The writing is amazing, the story is beautiful and the idea behind it is so original. I liked the clever theories about time and the memory machine. When the story begins Ezra and Amaryllis are at the end of their childhood, almost ready to become adults. They form an unusual bond, one that's vital to the story. I loved that part and couldn't wait to see how their connection would develop. This book is fantastic on so many levels and all the characters play their own key part. It's is an excellent example of how fine literature can be.

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