Pattern of Shadows

Written by Judith Barrow
Review by Fenella Miller

Mary is a nursing sister at a Lancashire prison for the housing and treatment of German POWs; although her work is hard, she enjoys it. However it’s quite different at home. Here, there are constant arguments between her bad-tempered father and brother Patrick. Many of these fights are prompted by her flighty sister, Ellen. Frank Shuttleworth, a guard at the camp, turns up and won’t leave until Mary agrees to walk out with him. Her half brother, Tom, is a conscientious objector and has spent the last few years being mistreated in prison. Her mother is worn down, bullied by her husband, and finds solace in alcohol.

Mary soon realises Frank is a violent and dangerous man and she sends him away. She is drawn to the new German doctor, Dr Peter Pensch, but any hint of fraternisation with the enemy will see her imprisoned and Peter shipped to Canada.

The characters are well drawn and believable, particularly Mary and Peter. Judith Barrow has not written an ordinary romance but a book that deals with important issues which are still relevant today. The history is accurate and the setting authentic.

However, the prologue is confusing and unnecessary and would have been better omitted. Also Judith Barrow has a disconcerting tendency to change viewpoint and time without indication.

That said, this is an excellent debut novel and one I thoroughly enjoyed reading.