Review | Monday 30 July 2012
Half-Sick of Shadows is a wonderful story told through complex and compelling characters. The characters both deliver and are delivered at a slow thoughtful pace. Even something as exciting as the discovery of a corpse is dealt with at the level of excitement you might reach upon discovering you’re out of milk and the guests are due soon. This isn’t a bad thing though, Edward our protagonist is just that kind of boy. The only child to show any real promise from an isolated and severely dysfunctional family his, and our, journey starts at his Granny’s funeral (buried in their back yard with the rest of their ancestors). The combination of experiencing death and watching his twin sister deal with a life-changing promise forced out of her by their emotional father causes Edward to experience a personal awakening.
At the tender age of five he becomes aware of what it means to be responsible for others and what it means to really live and to die. Fortunately Edward is highly intelligent and it able to handle such revelations though he never feels any smarter than he should.
David has done an incredible job at writing these heavy subjects through the eyes of a child without making it feel like there’s an adult there behind him. Soon we move on to the boarding school years, where there is something almost reminiscent of Stephen Fry about the writing. Admittedly, it could just be that the story veers into intelligent-loner-boy-in-boarding-school territory although as far as I recall Stephen Fry’s memoirs never included a mysterious semi-imaginary, time travelling, alternate reality-jumping, poetry-harvesting Muse for a friend.
Like the ballad from which it takes its name, (Tennyson’s The Lady of Shalott, which I recommend reading before the book), Half-Sick of Shadows is a dark tale full of sorrow and, like the ballad, it is one well worth reading.