Sunday, 4 January 2015

Pattern of Shadows by Judith Barrow

There are so many things to like about Pattern of Shadows; I really don't know where to start. It's a testament to Judith Barrow's skill as a writer that she sets up the tension on the very first page and manages to maintain it until the very last. The backdrop to the story is WW2 but ironically the tension and danger within the story come from much closer to home. Mary is a nurse living and working in a working class community in the north of England and it seems that she is being oppressed from every angle. Barrow's writing evokes a claustrophobic impression of the terraced housing where neighbours are almost living on top of each other. The imagery throughout is so vivid, I couldn't stop thinking what a terrific TV series this story would make. Mary is a sympathetic and likeable character but she is a woman of her time, trapped by family, duty and the notion of respectability. All of Barrow's characters are in different ways defined by their historical context. For example we have Mary's father whose health has been destroyed by WW1 and her brother who has been forced to go down the mines and feels emasculated by not being allowed to fight in the war. Not all of the characters behave well but we feel some sympathy for them none the less. All that is except for Frank who, from the onset, is so sinister the animosity and malice he exudes is almost palpable. Nothing in this story is cleanly cut, however. Even Peter whom Mary loves is shrouded in mystery and may not be the character he seems to be. I was enthralled by this story from beginning to end and am delighted to find that there is a sequel.

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