Five words from the blurb: twins, cemetery, tragedy, disturbing, childhood
I hadn’t heard of this book until an unsolicited review copy popped through my letter box, but the fact it had won the inaugural Terry Pratchett Prize grabbed my attention. I’m pleased that I gave it a try as it was an entertaining read.
Half-Sick of Shadows is set in a remote house which has a cemetery as a back garden. Edward, the central character, lives here with his family, but nothing is quite as it seems. It quickly becomes obvious that things don’t always occur as they do in our world and certain physical laws can be broken. Having completed the book I’m still not entirely sure what could happen in this strange, but familiar world, but I enjoyed being taken along for the ride.
The book begins with the death of the children’s grandmother. The death changes the balance of things in the house and nothing is the same as it was before.
The first part of the book reminded me of The Wasp Factory. The books share a creepy atmosphere that results from the isolation of the characters and their bizarre, cruel actions.
When Edward starts school the atmosphere changed to mimic that of Never Let Me Go. Almost everything was normal, but there was that underlying sense that things weren’t quite right. It was impossible to put your finger on exactly what was going on, but I loved the strange sense of foreboding that it created.
As the book progressed the reader discovers more about the world these characters live in and the pace of the plot increases until it reaches a dramatic conclusion.
This is quite a subtle book. The joy is in trying to work out what is going on in this dark, creepy world. Many aspects of the plot could be perceived as disturbing (murder, incest, rape) but the author somehow manages to inject a light humor that prevents anything from becoming too traumatic.
My only complaint is that the book lacked the thought-provoking aspects of the other two books I mentioned. Half-Sick of Shadows is purely for entertainment and although there is nothing wrong with that it means that it doesn’t stand out in the same way.
Recommended to anyone who enjoyed The Wasp Factory.