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A family saga set in Italy from 1870-1950, with a large cast of characters and which unspools much like a film charting the family’s decline (much like in The Leopard) over these tumultuous years. The novel opens with a photo of the Ducati family at ease in the garden of their castle, the Castle of Cortalba, Monferrato, and then we follow the various members over the years against a background of political upheavals, world wars, changing fortunes, the rise of fascism, and with real life characters making their appearance from time to time. A series of further photos add verisimilitude to the narrative, which is, in fact based on the author’s own family history. There’s much drama here, although the rather flat and unemotional style makes for a surprisingly unemotional reading experience and although I enjoyed the book I wasn’t really drawn into the character’s lives. I also found the frequent shifts between first and third person disorientating and didn’t feel it added anything to the narrative. What I did really enjoy, however, was the panoramic portrait of Italy’s history reflected through the trials and tribulations of one family, and found that as a piece of social history it succeeds very well.
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"...that art inevitably contains a political message, as an expression of the historical and social context, even when it is being presented in purely aesthetic terms."

Castle of Shadows is an epithet for a castle in Cortalba, Italy; of the state in which the narrator finds it just before it gets a changeover ushering a new start. The castle belonged to her family; to two brothers of the Ducati family at the start of the twentieth century. During the course of the century, the book takes us through a journey describing the lives of three generations of the Ducati family; how they fare when they subject themselves to the external world across the boundaries of the castle and when they avert hostility when the external world threaten to break the boundaries.

Castle of Shadows is the story of maintenance and drifting of the grandeur of the Castle. The maintenance flourishes through the stories of Olga, Ada, Alma and Nina, while the drifting through the stories of brothers and sisters, near and far. It is also a description of the changing face of societies and the attitudes of the people especially during the times of the world wars when something is expected from every citizen and family apart from the normal.

Anna Lawton's Castle of Shadows, as rightly captioned, is a family saga. It picturises the beautiful times at the dawn of the century and how it all slips from under the feet as the century flies past. It is reminiscent of a story of any joint family, how it downfalls from being an unattainable level of the society to being a shadow of its past. But, after all, it is a castle which can start afresh even after centuries, unlike human beings.

Castle of Shadows is beautifully written, its beauty exuded by the well etched characters of Ada and Alma, but fails to leave a mark. The book neither delves too much into the Italian way of life, nor does it dwell too much upon the Italian countryside.

Overall, a good read; one to taste and swallow.
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A well written and engrossing novel. I liked the style of writing, the fleshed out cast of characters and the setting.
I look forward to reading other books by this author.
Highly recommended!
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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Anna Lawton has written a beautiful book of place, time, and character.  Lawton includes powerful description at no expense to plotting.
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