Shadow Sisters reviewed by Jenny

As Shelly Davidow reveals her happy childhood in South Africa we discover some dark truths about apartheid.  Her family tries to live a life without discrimination but the more they put their trust in the community the more their efforts are tested to breaking point.

Shelley’s mother works in Soweto and risks her life every day. Her father brings a positive approach to all of life’s problems, including the ever present racial tensions which are spiralling out of control.  No-one can ignore the stress. The family has taken in Leena as their housekeeper, creating a double life for this aging black woman living in a white community.  Then Rosie, Leena’s niece, arrives, and a whole new set of challenges come into play.

How this girl integrates and assimilates into her “white” life is a main theme of the book.  Our senses are stretched as we see the danger for Rosie while the teenaged Shelley and her friend Lor go on their adolescent expeditions.  What looks like a schoolgirl crush gets out of control just when the whole country is facing crisis and revolution.

This is an engaging and fascinating story which reveals a lot about the everyday face of apartheid and the toll it took on the whole population.  As, one by one, everyone in the white community faces the question of whether to leave or to stay we agonise with Shelley as she realises just how much the political is becoming the personal, and has impacted on her family.   It’s a heart rending account which exposes the tested loyalties and contradictions in the shifting sands of political upheaval.

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