Review: A Long Shadow
When farmer Dan Maddicott is found shot dead in one of his fields, he leaves behind a young family and a farm deep in debt. Although the coroner records accidental death, village rumours suggest he has taken his own life so that the insurance payout can save his family from ruin.
Dan’s wife, Kate, refuses to believe the gossip and is determined to prove to herself, and her children, that his death was an accident. But could it have been murder? Kate discovers a set of old diaries containing secrets that may reveal how Dan really died.
Set against the backdrop of the farming crisis of the turn of the millennium, Caroline Kington’s absorbing family drama also tells the secret history of another resident of the farm, decades before, whose tragic tale will come to have major repercussions in the present day.
Kate faces grief admirably as she and her two children try to come to terms with Dan's unusual death. Dan and his family have owned their farms for ages. They rent out pieces and oversee the agriculture on other areas, but despite their efforts, the farm is failing when Dan meets his end. The story weaves in the mysterious background of a group of tenants, which forms the "long shadow" over Dan and his family.
Stories with multiple POV can be challenging to follow but this one is woven well. Each scene advances the story well. The characters are interesting. I felt that Kate was the most interesting and compelling - the life of a widow with children is poignantly drawn. We get lovely snippets of Kat attempting to grieve despite constant interruptions and the demands of her life.
I had two frustrations with the novel. The first was a broken promise issue. This is difficult to discuss without spoilers but I didn't feel the resolution I wanted from the premise. The mystery is somewhat solved, but I wasn't satisfied with the details left unexplained. The second is that I found the story of Frank to teeter on cliché. There is no doubt that England mistreated unwed mothers in the mid-20th century, but the version told here is teetering on the verge of becoming the "single story" told about that era - the young mother is 100% innocent and pure while all who surround her are salivating monsters. I wanted more nuance. One of my favorite parts of Ann Howard Creel's novel, The Magic of Ordinary Days, was how she brought me to the conclusion that shaming unwed mothers was wrong without villainizing or sanctifying any character. Everyone was a little messy. I wish there had been more of that here.
Readers can order the book from the Lightning Books website at 50% off (with free UK p&p) if you enter this code at checkout – BLOGTOURSHAD
Author Bio –
Caroline Kington spent most of her working life in theatre and television, as a director, producer and founder of the fringe theatre company Antidote Theatre.
Since the death of her husband Miles Kington, the columnist and broadcaster, she has posthumously published three of his books: a humorous memoir of his illness, called How Shall I Tell the Dog?; a collection of his columns and other writings, The Best By Miles; and a collection of his celebrated ‘Franglais’ columns that had not appeared in book form before, Le Bumper Book of Franglais.
In her own right, she is the author of the Summerstoke trilogy of rural comedies. She insists that no character in the series is based on anybody from the small village near Bath where she has lived for many years. Nobody believes her.
Her novel A Long Shadow had its origins in a feature she made for Channel 4 News at the turn of this century about the pressures on farmers as a result of BSE and foot-and-mouth disease.
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