Shadow – Michael Morpurgo
*Warning – may contain spoilers*
First published: 2010
Edition: Hardback. If the front cover has a dog on it, I’m sold.
Blurb: Never have Aman and his mother needed a friend more than when a Springer Spaniel appears – thing and war-ravaged – in the mouth of their Afghan cave, where they struggle to survive in a world of poverty, corruption and police brutality. Nursed back to health by Aman, the dog becomes a constant companion, a shadow and that’s what Aman decides to call her.
But life in Afghanistan becomes more dangerous by the moment. Eventually, Aman, his mother and Shadow find the courage to embark upon the treacherous journey from war-torn Afghanistan to the safety of a relative’s home in Manchester, England.
But how far can Shadow lead them? And in this terrifying new world, is anywhere really safe…?
History of my copy: I picked up my copy of Shadow for 50p at a car boot I went to last month Whilst the book and dustcover are a little scuffed around the edges, it is otherwise in good condition, especially for how little I paid for it!
Michael Morpurgo is one of my favourite authors. In fact, he is who I consider as the author who turned me into a bibliophile. Although I don’t have all of his books, I adore the ones I do own. Whist he is predominantly a child author, there is a certain magic to his books and such good underlying morals that they are appropriate to all ages.
Plot: Shadow starts with Matt staying with his Grandfather and going to visit his best friend Aman who is locked away with his mother, ready to be sent back to Afghanistan despite living in England for 6 years. Matt himself isn’t allowed to go in, but the grandfather does and that is how we hear Aman’s story.
Aman tells the grandfather about his home in a cave in Afghanistan and how eventually him and his mother, along with a homeless Springer Spaniel Shadow, leave the war-torn country on a horrendous trek to the UK. Their journey has its ups and downs, and painfully portrays the struggle that hundreds of thousands of people are still making to escape their troubled homes.
We know from the beginning of the story that Aman and his mother o make it to England, but the reader has no idea just how difficult the journey was and the things they sacrificed to get here.
The end of the novel involves a protest to allow Aman and his mother to stay in England and, just when the day seems lost, the tables turn due to an unlikely hero.
Setting: Shadow has multiple settings, and Morpurgo captures them all fantastically. From the prison-like Yarl’s Wood to the war-torn Afghanistan and even the suffocating darkness of the containers Aman and others travel in. Whilst a child’s book, Morpurgo can portray a setting with little effort and with child-like descriptions rather than lengthy paragraphs.
Characters: I absolutely adore Aman as a character. Despite being young, he is brave and has seen enough war and suffering to last a life-time. He clearly struggles retelling his story, but he does it nonetheless.
Along with that, I think the grandad is a great character too as he stays and listens to everything Aman says, even when it appears that he isn’t coming back. On top of that, he helps Matt organise the protest, which is quite a thing. It’s also refreshing to see an elderly character that isn’t racist like many of the elderly people I am used to.
To read or not to read: Read. Shadow is a brilliant tale of why people make the life-threatening trek across Europe to reach England. With the Syrian crisis and with refugees by the thousands in Calais, Shadow is very much on topic nowadays and is a must read for anyone who can’t see why people would risk their lives to get here.