WHAT IS THE BOOK ABOUT
In 1824, a young man buttons up his redcoat and goes to war. Amidst the blood and devastation, he discovers a magical power which can save memory from the ravages of time.
1867 and a woman, living above a watch shop, meets two men who will change her life forever. As she ventures further into a world of séance and mysticism, she must decide whether to trust her own eyes.
In the present day, a rebellious artist finds herself photographing stillbirths for a living. At Little Angels, it’s not about what you can take from a picture, but what you can give.
The story of three lives, spanning the history of photography and our relationship with mortality.
Secure the shadow, ere the substance fades.
WHO ARE THE PLAYERS
Cody – a young photographer, who is fascinated with capturing death.
Zenobia – owner of art galleries.
Alfred – former soldier.
Arabella – the star of this story (in my humble opinion).
WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK
What a terrific book Marion Grace Woolley’s Secure the Shadow is. I am still nursing a hangover after devouring this book days ago. To understand why, let us dive into my review.
The book starts with a confusing but impactful opening. I was left wondering what was all that about? Naturally, to satisfy my curiosity, I had no choice but to continue reading, and I was rewarded with a gratifying experience.
Woolley has penned an engrossing tale, one which I always wanted to come back to every time I put down the book. I was dying with curiosity about what was going to happen to Arabella. What will happen to Cody? How does this character fit into the picture in the grand scheme of things?
Moreover, Woolley employs beautiful prose to describe the situations, the settings, her characters, their feelings, and their thoughts on mortality. This is the first time I have seen such eloquent descriptions of death with just the hint of grief accompanying it. Throughout the book, the characters discuss death. One of the central characters, Cody, a photographer, is fascinated with death. Hence, it is natural for such discussions about death and life to crop up throughout the book. However, this is done graciously and respectfully. It touched my heart and made me ponder about mortality.
I found this quote to be a beautiful summation of death, the only inevitable truth of life:
“This one big thing that’s coming for all of us, and yet none of us talk about it.”Secure the Shadow by Marion Grace Woolley
Much of Secure the Shadow is also a reverent celebration of photography. Henry Fox Talbot, one of the pioneers of photography, makes a brief appearance here. All ye photographers out there, read this book. You will be delighted. However, other readers, fret not. I knew nothing about photography, and yet I did not feel alienated at all while reading the book.
Other than the three leading characters, Woolley also presents the point-of-view of some other characters which add depth to the narrative. This helped me understand almost every character’s feelings, dreams, and dilemmas. Further, as you have already read from the blurb, the book alternates between past and present timelines. However, Woolley seamlessly switches between different POVs as well as the timelines to craft a smoothly flowing story. Never for a second, I felt that the characters’ voices were not distinct. Besides, she smoothly transitions between modern and nineteenth-century prose to subtly emphasize the difference between the timelines. I have encountered such writing finesse in very few books.
Twice in the story, some unexpected twists add further momentum to this deeply captivating tale. The book’s strengths are further bolstered by a satisfying climax, where the story of three lives, spanning generations, comes full circle.
However, Woolley leaves one character unexplored, and I so wished she had explored it. But this also acts as a blessing in disguise – you are left guessing about that person’s motives. I also found Arabella’s story more compelling than Cody’s, but this is a matter of personal choice.
Secure the Shadow by Marion Grace Woolley is a commentary on life, death, grief, and of course, photography with an element of mystery throughout. It exquisitely captures the feelings of all its characters. It was as if I was watching the story of generations of people unfold on a screen while reading the book.
Read it, you will love it.
One last thing, before picking up this excellent book, please note there are mentions of miscarriage, stillbirth, and death. Kindly heed these trigger warnings.
Thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for my spot on this blog tour. Many thanks to the author and publisher for a free copy of the book. This does not affect my opinion on the book at all. I opted to provide an honest review on my blog.
Do visit the other lovely blogs discussing this book. The tour schedule is as follows:
Nothing much matters to the thing that died. It’s about what’s left behind. You know, they say death only affects the living. That all those tears and the grief and the outpouring, that’s about the living expressing their pain.Secure the Shadow by Marion Grace Woolley
Marion Grace Woolley is known for dark historical fiction including Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran and The Children of Lir. She balances writing with her work in international development and her hobby as a piano tuner. Marion currently lives in Rwanda.
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