Saturday, 14 November 2020

The Purple Shadow by Christopher Bowden


The Purple Shadow by Christopher Bowden

Published by Amolibros in September 2016.

How I got this book: Received a review copy via Rachel's Random Resources

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Amazon UK / Amazon.com / Hive UK

The Book Depository / Waterstones


In the years before the war, Sylvie Charlot was a leading light in Paris fashion with many friends among musicians, artists and writers. Now she is largely forgotten. Spending time in Paris during a break in his acting career, Colin Mallory sees a striking portrait of Sylvie. Some think it is a late work by Édouard Vuillard but there is no signature or documentary evidence to support this view.

The picture has some unusual qualities, not least the presence of a shadow of something that cannot be seen. Perhaps the picture was once larger. Colin feels an odd sense of connection with Sylvie, who seems to be looking at him, appealing to him, wanting to tell him something.

Despite a warning not to pursue his interest in her portrait, he is determined to find out more about the painting, who painted it, and why it was hidden for many years.

Colin’s search takes him back to the film and theatre worlds of Paris and London in the 1930s and to a house in present-day Sussex. As he uncovers the secrets of Sylvie’s past, her portrait seems to take on a life of its own.


The Purple Shadow is a wonderfully compelling novel that kept me hooked from the very first page until the last. I loved that it is written from the point of view of a flaneur which I felt added a real depth to its sense of place and, as a result, to the overall atmosphere of this story. Paris between the wars absolutely came alive to me so I could clearly envisage Sophie at the height of her fame and also imagine the two eras in scenes where their locations overlapped. Bowden's sharp observations and deft portrayals draw attention to beautiful design details such as wrought-iron railings on a balcony or the exact way in which a fabric drapes which made reading The Purple Shadow such a rich experience, perfectly in keeping with the artistic storyline itself.

The mystery itself was not at what I expected so was all the more fascinating for that. There are moments where, as a reader, I wasn't sure how much of what I was told I should actually accept as truth, and memorable characters, particularly some of the cameo roles, who felt as real as if I were genuinely sitting beside Colin watching these scenes play themselves out rather than reading their words in a book. I am amazed I had not heard of Christopher Bowden's work before and am delighted to learn he already has another five stories published. On the strength of how much I loved reading The Purple Shadow, I think I have several more literary treats awaiting me.


Meet the author   


Christopher Bowden lives in south London. He is the author of six colour-themed novels, which have been praised variously by Andrew Marr, Julian Fellowes, Sir Derek Jacobi, and Shena Mackay.

Author links: 

Facebook ~ Website



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Books by Christopher Bowden / Mystery novels / Books from England

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