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Book review: <i>Season Of Shadow and Light</i> by Jenn J McLeod

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the cover of the book

Paige Turner is at a crossroads in her life. She packs up her daughter Mati and her step-mother Alice and takes a trip to the country, leaving her husband behind. She's hoping to find something about her past, about the mother she lost as a young girl. But has she bitten off more than she can chew?

The story

Paige Turner had everything going for her; the job of her dreams, a handsome, hardworking husband, and a little daughter. When she got pregnant again it was like a dream come true, except she kept pushing herself, ignored the warning signs, and ended up experiencing a debilitating stroke.

Her confidence shattered, job lost, Paige needed to re-learn how to do even the most basic things, and her nightmares started again – two am and a baby was being ripped away from her. She would wake, screaming and sweating and worried about her daughter. Her husband had gone from supportive to emotionally absent, and Paige was on the abyss.

Paige's daughter Matilda was commissioned to do a school project about a woman Mati admired, and she chose Paige's mother Nancy, who had died when Paige was little. Knowing hardly anything about Nancy's past, they stumbled across a photo of Nancy on a horse with a sign in the background signalling a particular location in northern NSW. Paige has always wanted to know more about her mother, and needs a break from Stephen. She convinces her adopted mother, Alice, to accompany them to the town, in search of answers.

They miss the turn-off to the town of Saddleton and end up in a one-horse town with all the roads blocked by floods, and Paige wonders whether or not the whole trip was a ridiculous idea. But sometimes, it turns out, you end up where you need to be, not where you intended.

Nancy had tried to bury her old life. Will the truth set her family free, or will it spontaneously combust three generations?

The style

As readers of this blog will know, I love Aussie flavoured books, but am not really into epic romance. As Season of Shadow and Light contains both of those aspects, I will declare myself torn.

Season of Shadow and Light is written in the third person limited and mainly focusses on Paige, but occasionally switches to one of the other main characters (approximately four in total) to check their internal monologue and give a bit more dimensionality to the story. This device works well, in what is an epic tale about secrets and lies and families and whatnot. Speaking of epic tales, the plotting is excellent. The storyline has been well constructed and the meandering path it takes to get from a whole collection of secrets a couple of generations old to the revelation is masterful. It seems McLeod is the master of the red herring, and even though you can see what she's doing you don't know how she'll have things turn out. It really keeps the Paiges Turning (hilarious). Towards the end of the story I felt as though everything got wrapped up just a little too neatly, but that's one of the reasons the epic romance style genre isn't for me, so that's a personal preference. I did quite a bit of eye-rolling during the denouement though.

The characters are all pretty good also, and the setting is gorgeous. Give me an authentic Aussie setting I don't like and I'll be surprised, because I'm a real sucker for it. The characters and the small town are well portrayed, three dimensional, and while occasionally erring on the side of stereotypical, well, sometimes small towns are like that. The main characters are not without their flaws, which is important, although sometimes I wanted to punch Paige in the face. It's not like you have to be best friends with the main character though.

My one complaint would be that there was an awful lot of telling in with the showing, as though McLeod was worried her readers weren't really getting what she was saying about her characters, so she had to keep giving internal monologue examples and rehashing character development and other devices. It felt like a tiny lacking of confidence in her own writing and also in the reader, and it's my personal preference to have to work for what's happening in a novel, so I started to find the telling vs showing a bit draining. The novel could have been a quarter shorter and much punchier, but by the same token I am not McLeod's target audience and maybe that device works for them.

Who is this book for?

Not me. I'm going to imagine it's for lay-dees around Paige's age and situation who want to engage in their own fantasies away from inattentive husbands, which is totally fine. Go nuts, ladies.

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Have I got a treat for you guys released on the first of June. I'll keep you posted.


In short

Title: Season of Shadow and Light
Author: Jenn J McLeod
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
ISBN: 9781925030280
Year published: 2015
Pages: 305
Genre(s): Fiction, Australiana
Review Type: