Title: Shadow Song
Author: Anita Morrish
Genre: Historical fiction
Shadow Song by Anita Morrish is set against the backdrop of World War II-ravaged Rome, Italy. The story follows the lives of a young art student, Francesca, who works at an opera house and a young doctor who’s just returned from the war, Carlo. Both are involved in the underground resistance, risking their lives for the greater good while secrets lurk in every corner, and they don’t know who is trustworthy.
The author’s choice to set the story during World War II opens the window to a large audience. World War II fiction is a popular historical context, and these stories are often inspiring and harrowing and speak across decades about the human condition. Both the hope and the devastation from the events of the 1940s touch on the best and the worst of humanity. No one can or should forget the atrocities from such a war, nor can or should anyone forget the heroism of many who risked and gave their lives for the greater good. Shadow Song occurs after the end of 1943 after Mussolini is overthrown, yet the Germans still occupy and control Italy, so the tensions of who to trust among fellow citizens is high. The Allies are fighting to drive out the Germans, but between Italian fascists and the resistance, the everyday person lives a daily balancing act. Morrish’s story touches on how characters like Francesca and Carlo just want to survive and be able to live their lives, yet they are willing to work for the resistance and put their lives on the line. Such stories, even fictional, move deeply within what it means to be human, to strive for a better world.
Morrish’s characters, although not based on real people, come alive on the pages. She uses dialogue effectively to give them life as they interact. Her use of the theater and music adds flavor to the scenes in the opera house. Without hearing the music with our ears, we feel it in our minds and hearts when Francesca and Giorgio, an actor and singer, confess their love. The reader is invested in the characters and feels what they feel because the author has done an effective, compelling job with description and realistic dialogue. The story’s backdrop may be contingent on real events and the timeline of World War II; however, it is Morrish’s characters who drive the narrative forward.
The pace is steady throughout and grips the reader from the first chapter, keeping one guessing what the outcome will be in the end. We know the outcome of the war, but the question that begs the reader’s mind is what happens specifically to these characters.
Morrish brings historical details, like blackout shades, curfews, and rations into the narrative, which are imperative to historical fiction. Lovers of historical fiction enjoy such attention to detail to bring out the flavor of the time period.
The language is clear and concise throughout the book; however, some of the scenes are short and are rendered choppy, at times. Overall, this does not detract from the flow or enjoyment of the narrative.
Shadow Song is a gripping, heart-wrenching World War II tale that will stay with the reader long after the book is finished. Anita Morrish’s story is filled with inspiration that people can act for what is right in the face of adversity and tragic circumstances. Shadow Song is a must-read for lovers of World War II fiction.
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