This is a failed review; a non-review; an unreview. I have been trying and trying to finish this book, but have found myself at a dead stop in interest level. Maybe during another time in my life? I need to get this off my desk, and off my conscience, so I’m going to shelve it now, along with its prequel, The L-Shaped Room (which I did manage to read and review, hence the presence of the sequel on my to-read list), and with all the sombre Margaret Atwoods et al which I also have trouble getting thrilled about at this point. Life changes; our reading choice ebb and flow and evolve. Someday, perhaps, “Jane Graham’s” tale will be of interest to me, but certainly not now.
It’s not that it’s a “bad” book; there is a certain style and flow to Banks’ writing that is decidedly appealing, and I can see that her heroine might be someone whom the reader could make friends with, if the reader is in that place in their life where they can identify and sympathize with Jane and her endeavours.
In the meantime, here is the flyleaf description, for the record. I fully agree with the facts of this blurb (okay, maybe not the “glowing achievment” bit, but I agree in general), but just can’t get past my personal annoyance at Jane’s irritatingly navel-gazingish personna; I know constant self-examination is a good thing and all, but this gal takes it to a high level. I’m just one person, though – others feel much more enthusiastic! You’ll have to try it for yourself.
Here’s a link to the Goodreads page:
And from the flyleaf:
From the author of the memorable The L-Shaped Room comes this powerful, disturbing, bittersweet sequel – a complete novel by itself, which continues the story of Jane, now living in an English country cottage with her illegitimate child, determined to forge a viable, independent future. She still loves Toby, her past lover but not the father of her child, but she has an obstinate conviction that she must not burden is writing career by saddling him with her situation.
Tough and resilient though Jane is in many respects, the intensity with which she loves her child is not enough to conceal from her the recognition of her essential loneliness in her isolated country life. She resolves to meet the challenges in her own way and, as readers of The L-Shaped Room will remember fondly, Jane’s way is one of honesty, humor, and unsentimental insight.
Rarely in fiction does the sequel to a celebrated novel measure up to its predecessor in impact and originality, but The Backward Shadow is in every way as glowing an achievement as Lynne Reid Bank’s first book…
And here is the Kirkus Reviews take, from 1970:
This is an extension of The L-Shaped Room (better remembered as a film?) in which unwed mother Jane has retired to Surrey with her infant, David, and is still in love with Toby (not his father). Toby comes down from London to see her now and again before he gets attached elsewhere and Jane learns too late that being an independent woman (not in the current sense) has a premium. With Dottie, an old friend, she starts a gift shop which is subsidized by Henry, Dottie’s contact. Before they’re through “the backward shadow” has darkened all their lives: Dottie’s is loneliness; Jane’s is the problem of getting along and bringing up David; Henry’s is “dying well”–which he does, although Jane and Dottie cry a great deal. . . . Essentially it’s a soft-shelled woman’s story–a term which has been discredited rather than the fact. There will be readers.