Posted on 20th September 2011

Posted by Sophie

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Shipley Reading Group reads Nimrod’s Shadow

As part of the Fiction Uncovered 2011 promotion, we worked with The Reading Agency to reach reading groups across the UK. As part of the promotion eight selected reading groups were given one of the selected Fiction Uncovered titles to read and we’re delighted that they’ve been able to feed back their thoughts.

We’ll be posting up a selection of the reviews over the coming months.

This is a review of Chris Paling’s Nimrod’s Shadow by Andy from the Shipley Reading Group, Shipley, West Yorkshire.

Nimrod’s Shadow is a thoroughly readable and engrossing book with a dual plot and a limited number of major characters. These characters are portrayed wonderfully well and are entirely believable. They drive the story along marvellously well.

The first plot is set in Edwardian England and concerns a poor artist named Reilly who owes his friend Mountjoy, a café owner, some money. He decides to mount an exhibition in the café to raise money and before the exhibition the art critic Gower agrees to value his work. Gower’s body is then found in the nearby canal, the motive appears to be robbery and his missing wallet is found in Reilly’s possession. Local journalist Pardrew does his best to incriminate Reilly even before the trial has started.

The parallel plot intertwined with this concerns a young office girl, Samantha Dodd, alienated from office life, apparently with few friends and coping with the recent loss of her mother. She sees one of Reilly’s paintings in a local art gallery and is entranced by it. This leads her to giving up her job, taking work in the gallery and forming a very on-off relationship with the gallery owner Keith Blake. Ultimately when she is trying to recover more of Reilly’s original paintings to exhibit, Brian, a local builder, accidentally plunges to his death while trying it on with her and afterwards she is implicated with his death.

Both stories have their parallels: Reilly’s paintings, suspected murders and even Nimrod, the artist’s dog also features prominently, latterly as a stuffed exhibit. Without knowing it Nimrod casts a shadow over both plots: In the first he accidentally fells Gower on the canal bank and in the second his removal from the coffee shop implicates Samantha in Brian’s death.

Opening the novel is a quote from Leonardo Da Vinci concerning the properties of shadow and that it ‘stands between darkness and light’. Shadows, or areas where the truth is not known, lurk behind the story. Both deaths were tragic accidents yet they are both suspected to be murders. Both events are shadowed by doubt. Reilly is accused of being a thief and a liar; Samantha is suspected of trying to steal paintings from Blake and also of murder. These suspicions are more a shadow of reality than they are real, but events in the shadow must be allowed to play themselves out.

Ultimately the truth wins out, but with a heavy price to pay for it. Both Reilly and Samantha’s lives can never be the same again.

The story is beautifully crafted with some lovely detail, in particular that of prison life and public life in and around Old Cross where Reilly lived.

Lesser-known writers like Chris Paling deserve every credit for books like this. I have read many books by more famous modern-day writers, and I have to say this book leaves many of them in the shade.”

Chris Paling reads an extract from Nimrod’s Shadow.

A video interview with Chris Paling.

Giles Foden, Chair of Judges for Fiction Uncovered 2011, on Nimrod’s Shadow.



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