Shade and Light – Maryann D’Agincourt

The echoes of the past resonate through the lives of two families living in Boston. The secrets of the past where one family was helped by the other in Trieste, are never revealed, yet the threads of it are woven through their lives. It is a slow and easy read, not much happening. The reader stays an outsider, much like the characters themselves.

Jonas sketches Jenny and the final product resembled his aunt Belinda, who was the only one telling him some of the history of the two families. Jonas spends a lot of time in a coffee shop, sketching people. He once saw a man, and imagined him to be Harold, his mother’s lover. He was quite disillusioned to learn that Harold was not the man in the coffee shop.

Jonas was quite bewildered when he learned that the reality of marriage was not as dry and stilted as defined in his mother’s old Webster.

Jenny set up a rigorous schedule to finish as much classes as possible, before getting married to the much older Eric.

I was not drawn into the story in the beginning, the narrator’s voice was stronger than those of the characters. The characters never came to life for me, I could not resonate with one of them, but therein lies the strength of this novel. They stay in the shade.

There is very little dialogue and the personality of characters did not develop. I only later realized how clever it was, to portray Jonas as the observer of the world around him.

When Eric told Jenny about their parents in Trieste, it was in a cold, absent way. In fact, everything in this book happened in a cold, distant way as if one looks at the lives of the characters through a transparent curtain. They say in the shade, but for huge parts of the book, unfortunately so is the reader.

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