Posted on 28th September 2011

Posted by Rosa Anderson

Shipley Reading Group on Nimrod’s Shadow

As part of the Fiction Uncovered 2011 promotion, we worked with The Reading Agency to reach reading groups across the UK. Eight selected reading groups were given one of the Fiction Uncovered titles to read, and we’re delighted that they’ve been able to feed back their thoughts. Here, Shipley Reading Group in West Yorkshire give us their thoughts on Chris Paling’s Nimrod’s Shadow.

‘Nimrod’s Shadow is a powerfully written novel that reveals the immense power of artistic influence and its dominance throughout the years. The author manages to weave two interconnected tales—one set in Victorian England and one in the present day—together with clarity. Nimrod’s Shadow is a thoroughly readable and engrossing book with a dual plot. These characters are portrayed wonderfully well and are entirely believable. They drive the story along marvellously well.

‘One plot of this gripping read filled with intrigue is set in Edwardian England and concerns a poor artist named Reilly who is accused of murdering an art critic, Gower.  The intertwined plot is the story of Samantha, who is alienated from office life, has few friends, and is coping with the recent death of her mother. When she sees one of Reilly’s paintings in a local art gallery and is entranced by it, she gives up her job and starts working at the gallery. When a local builder dies, she is suspected of murder. The stories have their parallels: Reilly’s paintings, the murders, and even Nimrod, the artist’s dog, alive in the first storyline and a stuffed exhibit in the second.

‘As an epigraph we are given a quote from Leonardo Da Vinci concerning the properties of shadow, 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 Reilly and Samantha are both suspected to be murderers. These suspicions are as much a shadow of reality as they are real, but events in the shadows 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 intense hero, Reilly, a nineteenth century painter, was a well-developed character with human flaws, such as his naivety when out of his comfortable sphere of painting. The re-telling and re-discovery of Reilly’s experiences were masterful, and the bigger theme of the interrelationship and interaction between the artist, the artwork and the viewer is played out here very successfully.

‘We loved the images the author created through words of both the actual paintings by Reilly and the actual street life of a century ago. The descriptions of the same painting in the same words by the critic Gower and then by the gallery employee Samantha a century later was a masterstroke and engaged us in two ways of seeing across a century.’

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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