The winner of the Terry Pratchett Prize, David Logan’s first novel Half-Sick of Shadows is dark, light, disturbing and utterly brilliant.
Set mainly inside a grim, draughty house on a bleak, barren moor, Edward and his twin sister Sophia have a desolate upbringing and even more desolate prospects. On the morning of the burial of their granny Hazel - which conveniently takes place in the graveyard at the back of the house - Sophia’s father, in a fit of fury, makes her promise to never leave the Manse and her family.
Sophia and Edward’s bond, comparable to that of Cathy and Heathcliff in their isolated dependence, slackens, as Sophia becomes ever more introverted, shackled to her duty as daughter of the household and reluctant to even step outside. Great Expectations-style, her twin blossoms into a fine young man at boarding school and makes friends with a mysterious chap named Alf, who mainly talks about things that don’t make sense. As their lives accelerate into adulthood, their frustration at their circumstances culminates in a dramatic and bizarre turn of events.
Half-Sick of Shadows takes its title from Tennyson’s Lady of Shalott, and is based on the poem in which a beautiful lady is mysteriously cursed in a tower, unable to look directly out at the world. Logan’s novel is dark indeed – incest, abuse and murder all play vital parts – and women are portrayed as victims throughout, helpless at the power of men. With an intriguing plot that flails from humorous to disturbing and with its gritty, impoverished and uneducated characters, this a harrowing read and isn't one to miss.