My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book is a uniquely challenging enigma to review,possessing of both heart-breaking beauty and ferociously complex and dense text. It is a book of two halves and I think, a book that doesn’t really start with page 1 nor end with page 384. It is a book that I would describe as avant-garde both structurally and textually. It is, as you may gather, a rather complicated experience.
The Double Shadow is the story of Amaryllis Reuben and how her father has built a machine, for her, that also possess the power to change the world. It is also the story of how people are guided and shaped by their memories, by the re-shaping of their memories, and by their stories. There are levels upon levels here, and it’s not an easy read. I described it on Twitter as being “beautifully written, but so far it’s like wandering through a fog holding hands with a guide who doesn’t tell you where you’re going.”
But the thing about Gardner’s writing though is that you take that risk, and you join her on the journey because you know she is good. And she is. There’s moments in this where, with great restraint, she writes moments of intense beauty.
But then again that beauty has to stand against the viciously dense text, and sometimes it’s hard to remember why you’re reading this when you’ve spent fifty pages not being quite sure what’s actually going on. Like I said, it’s a complicated and confusing experience.
So do I recommend this? I think I do, but I think I recommend it primarily for the writing, and the crystalline acuity of her observations. Gardner is good, so very good, and I applaud her invention, bravery and risk-taking in this novel, but I do equally acknowledge that this spirit of invention may not translate into a mass-market approval. And that’s for several reasons, as highlighted above, but also one more. Because, whilst the above all stands, I’ve realised something else.
I’m still not really sure what I made of this book.