Adult,  Big Book

In Her Shadow

Louise Douglas
in her shadowHannah Brown never thought she’d have a best friend like Ellen Brecht. Ellen is everything she isn’t – beautiful, daring, glamorous and fierce. Growing up together in rural Cornwall, life seems perfect. But their idyllic childhood is shattered by obsession, betrayal and, ultimately, tragedy.
Hannah has tried for twenty years to forget what happened during that terrible summer. Then, one ordinary morning at work, she glimpses a woman who is identical to Ellen. Can it really be her? And has Ellen returned to forgive her – or to punish her?

I was gripped by this novel, it has all the essentials for a good read; compelling characters, beautiful settings, an intriguing story and a little bit of mystery to keep you guessing along the way.
The story is told by Hannah who is in her thirties and working for a museum, she is thrown into turmoil one day by a glimpse of her old friend Ellen Brecht and we discover that Hannah’s past holds secrets and a history of mental illness because of childhood events that she has never really recovered from. Through Hannah’s life now and her reminiscences we gradually discover what she is hiding from and why Ellen’s possible return is so significant.
Ellen and her family burst into Hannah’s quiet life bringing an excitement and vibrancy that Hannah is drawn to like a moth to the flame, but there are hidden dangers and her youthful eyes don’t see the whole picture or the darkness within this family. Ellen is strong, fierce and determined (all things Hannah is not) they form a strong friendship, along with with Hannah’s adopted brother Jago. They grow through their teenage years together with the angst that goes with that and the added problems caused by Ellen’s family and Jago’s history.
Hannah has her own qualities and is a good friend to Ellen, but also struggles with jealousy and loneliness and feeling of betrayal as Ellen and Jago grow closer. She is a very complex character and the many facets come together along with the events so we can understand why she has suffered mental illness. As events roll on in the present we are left wondering if she is having more episodes and if she is heading for another breakdown.
As secrets are revealed and the darker elements come to the fore all the characters show their best and worst sides. I really enjoyed the build-up and revelations when they came, some things I didn’t see coming at all. The whole story is very atmospheric and there is a chill that pervades the book as we wonder where this is all going and how Hannah is going to cope with re-living the horrors of her past.
Verdict:I really enjoyed this and have already got another of Louise’s books on the Kindle to read soon!
Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Black Swan
Publication Date: August 2013
Format: Paperback
Pages: 464
Genre: Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge:British book

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