A Shadow in Yucatan

By Philippa Rees

Poetry, Literary fiction, Hybrid & other | Paperback, eBook


Recapturing the dying sixties, peopled by voices of her generation, Stephanie walks through pregnancy to pain, finding unexpected friends in unlikely places, and a growing truth and generosity. A true story, recounted on a beach in Yucatan, this distilled novel rekindles the optimism of innocence when all things still seemed possible, before dreams surrendered to the grey men in grey suits. A Shadow in Yucatan tells Stephanie's story, but her story was also the story of that golden time. Its nostalgia sings like cicadas in the heat...




Philippa, born in South Africa and fatherless by two, experienced the wildest of rural Africa in the care of her grandfather, on safari for weeks inspecting African schools. Otherwise she was imprisoned in boarding schools, for a 'British' education. She has lived on deserted islands in the Indian Ocean; at the Max Planck Institute in Bavaria; lectured to University students; designed and built her home, an arts centre and concert hall; raised four daughters. She lives in Somerset in her converted barns with an old collie and a long-suffering husband.


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Philippa, born in South Africa and fatherless by two, experienced the wildest of rural Africa in the care of her grandfather, on safari for weeks inspecting African schools. Otherwise she was imprisoned in boarding schools, for a 'British' education. She has lived on deserted islands in the Indian Ocean; at the Max Planck Institute in Bavaria; lectured to University students; designed and built h...


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WritingOnACloud

WritingOnACloud

30 June at 17:28

The Specialist (unequalled)

One of the extended luxuries of reading a book - particularly a good one, but then, at my age, I (we) should know when to abandon the not-so-good - is writing a review: another blank page to dash with blush and beam; pastels afforded by the author - go on, s/he enthuses, five stars in all the colours of the rainbow...

And then along comes Philippa Rees, with A Shadow in Yutacán, and I feel very much like the amateur - where to begin? Where then when begun? Philippa Rees' A Shadow in Yutacán is the kind of book that... well, I've noted Dylan Thomas in passing but he was never this good - reviewer scuffs the clichés infesting the corners of his mind.

I am honestly at a loss. This - pardon me and every reviewer for saying so - is an absolute work of art. And heart. For, make no mistake, Philippa's heart is at the very core of this work - a work that would be a rank fail if not. We might then forget genre - how `winkingly' witty dear Bob Book-Jacket should inform us our "distilled novel fits no category... is not poetry..."

Poetry, then, is in the ear of the beholder? And persuasive, indeed, it is. I'm reminded of Arthur Quiller Couch:

"Literature is not an abstract Science, to which exact definitions can be applied. It is an Art rather, the success of which depends on personal persuasiveness, on the author's skill to give as on ours to receive."

Stephanie, the book's MC, who wakes "to a smouldering afternoon pregnant with thunder", via pregnancy both of the belly and naivety, comes full circle - and in fact recalls a literary character of my own creation; if only she could put brakes on the rumbling rails of life!

But, for me, the `book' transcends 1960s dreams damned to the frailties of reality; this is Blake's Innocence and Experience second-done. And this, to repeat the idea of being lost for words, as well as to offer the most audacious of paradoxes, is a flight in animation, where the beauty of Philippa's poetry becomes mute to the magical carpet-ride of Stephanie's sensitivities... Come on, then, dear animators, this is the one you've been waiting for! Remember what was done with Raymond Briggs' Snowman?

"If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all," scoffs an Irish wit from spirit. What would he have made of this, though, eh? I do but wonder.

If I were limited to one question only, then it would surely be: `Philippa, how long did it take you to write A Shadow in Yutacán?' And yet I'd refrain, for fear of either answer.

`Not too long,' she smiles, `it is of my natural pen.'

Then I'll place down my own forevermore. Consolation being I'll order more - books! - I suppose.

`Actually, it was a real slog. A good two years.'

Mmm. Oh, why, by GOD, as I write, has it not yet been bestowed with the honour it deserves?

I will read A Shadow in Yutacán again. And again. And each time will be like the first.

This is a masterpiece.

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