Shadowplay is a sumptuously stunning read full of fact and fiction to enlighten and engage the reader. For me, it is a perfect balance of clever allusion and reference to
O’Connor is a master of the setting, able to convey through evocative and crafted prose a multisensory appreciation of both the external as well as the psychological inner worlds of his characters. Taking to Bram Stoker and his unique relationships with both Henry Irving and Ellen Terry, O’Connor creates a multi-layered exploration of the mind and the events surrounding the eventual creation of the novel Dracula. The author is careful to assure the reader that he has not been bound by facts in this novel. In this, it doesn’t claim to be a biography and the reader has no sense that he is playing fast and loose with real history, but is more actively drawn to fact-check and investigate the real-life underpinnings of the tale.
The delivery is a smoothed staccato that attempts to find the voice of Stoker himself, harkening to the idea that this is an autobiography (with researched interjections from other letters and memories shared by other characters) rendered in the third person – as the author cleverly reveals in a direct exchange between Stoker and Terry at the outset. The tale itself is populated with a collection of prominent historical characters of the time who all make their entrances on stage throughout and events that help to ground the tale in a swirl of Victorian circumstance and tragedy.
The author’s references to eventual character names in Dracula draw the reader on throughout and it is this skilful narrative weaving that makes this a highly recommended read.
Deep, dark and delicious – to me a lovely whiskey barrel-aged imperial stout of a novel ;-)