Living in the Shadows – Judith Barrow

Genre: Historical Fiction

Release Date: 16 July 2015

Publisher:  Honno Welsh Women’s Press

It’s 1969 and Mary Schormann is living quietly in Wales with her ex-POW husband, Peter, and her teenage twins, Richard and Victoria.

Her niece, Linda Booth, is a nurse – following in Mary’s footsteps – and works in the maternity ward of her local hospital in Lancashire.

At the end of a long night shift, a bullying new father visits the maternity ward and brings back Linda’s darkest nightmares, her terror of being locked in. Who is this man, and why does he scare her so? 

There are secrets dating back to the war that still haunt the family, and finding out what lies at their root might be the only way Linda can escape their murderous consequences.

Living in the Shadows is the final part of a trilogy – the previous two being Pattern of Shadows and Changing Patterns.  I hadn’t read the first two books before starting this and this really would be an advantage, as there are a lot of characters to get to grips with and I did struggle at first. Once I got my head around which character belonged to which family, it became a lot easier to follow.

This story is set in 1969, and features the rivalry between mods and rockers, the popularity of the hippie community and is a good commentary of attitudes prevalent at the time.  The story shifts between Wales and Manchester and one of the key characters is Victoria, the 18 year daughter of Mary and Peter Schormann.  Victoria was a selfish young girl who doesn’t feel she is getting enough attention from her family and decides to run away from home with Seth – who it turns out is the manipulative leader of a hippie commune.  Despite some of the scenes at the commune being quite chilling, I found it really difficult to feel any sympathy for her as we see the anguish she causes to her parents as they search for her and the effect it has on her family.  

Mary Schormann’s niece, Linda Booth is a nurse and whilst on duty in a maternity ward, she comes across someone who from her past who is still capable of causing trouble for her family.   As the backstory is revealed, they appear to have been a very troubled family and even now they all still face challenges and danger.  From the book description, I thought that this may be something of a thriller but actually it is a family drama with a sinister undertone and some very unpleasant characters.

Richard Schormann, brother to Victoria is deaf but this certainly hasn’t held him back, his father is the local GP but rather than stay in Wales, Richard leaves for Manchester to try and progress his medical career.  His thoughtfulness and common sense made him one of my favourite characters.  Whilst being chased by a vicious gang upon his arrival in Manchester, he is rescued by a young girl, Karen, and her role turns out to be an instrumental part of the story.  

The book is well written, authentic and with a good sense of place and if you enjoy family centred books then this may be for you.   I was a young child during the 1960s and so don’t really remember too much about those times although I enjoy reading books set in that period.  I enjoyed the book although from a purely personal point of view, I felt that there were too many characters which I found confusing, and whilst some stood out, for example, Mary Schormann together with her son Richard, and Linda, there were many others who I didn’t feel were fleshed out enough to make much of an impression.  It may well be that these characters had more of a presence in the previous books and to be fair to the author, she did make available the previous two books but lack of time prevented me from reading all 3.  Overall this was an enjoyable read and I suspect perfect for those who enjoy family sagas. 

Author bio

Judith Barrow has lived in Pembrokeshire for thirty years. She is the author of three novels, and has published poetry and short fiction, winning several poetry competitions, as well as writing three children’s books and a play performed at the Dylan Thomas Centre. Judith grew up in the Pennines, has degrees in literature and creative writing and makes regular appearances at literary festivals.


3 copies of the book (open internationally)

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2 thoughts on “Living in the Shadows – Judith Barrow”

    • Thanks for commenting Cleo and good luck with the giveaway. Some people say this can be read as a standalone and to a point it can, as some back story is revealed here but to get the best out of it I think you probably need to read the other two first.

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