Honor and Madalena were rivals for the love of Thomas when they were young. Now middle aged, secrets of the past have returned to haunt them, stirring up Honor’s desire for vengeance. Both women struggle to maintain control, as their lives become intertwined once more.
A series of events (a painful anniversary, a new psychotherapy client, a photo of Madalena’s daughter in a newspaper), have awakened disturbing memories in Honor. Through her work with Tisi, her strange new client, and her memory of a painful betrayal, she tries to work out what is driving her own unusual behaviour. Her efforts to contain the vengeful impulses of both Tisi and herself are failing. A Greek myth provides a chance to prevent disaster; and ultimately reveals to Honor the drive behind her own desire for revenge.
A letter jolts Madalena’s life of comfort and security. Someone thinks they know something about Madalena’s past that could destroy her carefully constructed life. She is desperate to find out whom, and a new friend helps her to think about who might have sent the letter. Her visits to old enemies become a journey of self discovery, as she attempts to maintain control of her life in the face of danger.
Voula Grand is a business psychologist and executive coach. Honor’s Shadow is her debut novel, a contemporary psychological drama, and the first of a trilogy. It is a fascinating novel exploring how presenting issues for clients can intersect and interweave the life of the therapist. A variation on “you get the clients you need.” The book is implicitly woven with therapeutic ideas and for a practicing therapist makes a welcome change to reading about therapy and yet still lends a sense of doing some work (sort of!). This book is about love, betrayal, and revenge, and about what can happen when we give in, or surrender to, our less consciously controlled urges and desires, all of which surface from time to time in most relationships, including the therapeutic one.
The themes spiral through an historical conflict between Honor and Madalena and their rivalry over the love of Thomas that presents afresh for Honor through the lens of the story of a new and challenging client, Tisi (a familiar type of personality for many of us). The mysteries at the core of the conflict are suggested through a slowly unfolding yet thoroughly addictive narrative, which introduces us to the might of the avenging Furies, three sisters from the ancient Greek pantheon, who teach us the lessons of our revengeful fantasies. And yet it is the Furies themselves who eventually lead Honor and Tisi to reconciliation and redemption.
As the title of the book suggests we are being presented with Honor’s shadow as mirrored through the lens of the other characters, and it is this element that interested me the most. I would imagine that the target readership of this book is wide but of particular interest to trainee and practicing therapists (and it is published by Karnac). This is not an essential read by any means, however, I read this book from start to finish with barely a break and would highly recommend it as an enjoyable piece of fiction and as an interesting alternative introductory text to becoming a therapist.
Voula Grand is a writer to watch. Honor’s Shadow, nourished by its author’s professional work as a psychologist, grows to become a quite original and haunting work of fiction. It is rare for a first book to manage the difficult trick of being both wise and gripping so successfully.
Dr. Honor Sinclair is a psychotherapist with a considerable amount of unresolved baggage in her own life. On a single day numerous old and painful emotions are dragged up to the surface as she encounters a new patient, Tisi, whose lust for revenge on those who have wronged her reawakens something in Honor. She is convinced that she has knowledge that could bring down her old rival, Madalena, and finally satisfy her carnal desire for revenge. Should she go against her own better judgement and act on these emotions, or should she rather spend that energy trying to work things out with her husband Eliot and finally learn to forgive him for his past betrayal?
Let me first of all say that this was a truly excellent book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. I honestly can’t remember the last time that I read a book that, as well as being completely compulsive and beautifully written, made me evaluate my own deep dark feelings (my shadow) and think long and hard about how I would have dealt with the sort of betrayal that the characters in this book have encountered. While I had doubts about myself as I was reading it, by the end I felt consoled and reassured, as if I personally had been to see a therapist. This is a testament to the talent of Voula Grand, that I emphasized with Honor and Tisi so much so that although I’ve never experienced that kind of betrayal personally, I felt their pain so strongly that I too needed a therapy session to process these emotions. Thankfully, the author treats both the characters and reader to a full recovery in the end.
Voula Grand is an exceedingly talented writer. She has mastered a writing style that is beautifully restrained, and that would frequently make me stop and pause in order to savour the succinctness of her wording. She never falls into the trap of gushing sentimentally all over the page in order to evoke an emotional response – easy as that might be for many first-time writers – yet the sentiment nevertheless comes across perfectly. Throughout the story the plot is well planned and tight. The characters’ complexities emerge bit by bit as Grand deftly peels back layer after layer revealing their true personalities at exactly the right time for the reader to feel the full impact of each revelation. Undoubtedly Grand’s own experience as a therapist has been instrumental to her ability to portray characters who are both charming and likeable and unforgiving and spiteful all at once.
I loved this book and can easily imagine myself delving back into it again in the future, if I should find myself in the need of some soul searching. I’m in absolute awe of Voula Grand and cannot wait to see what else she has to offer in the future. Highly recommended!
I’ve just finished reading Honor’s Shadow. I was left feeling very intrigued, and full of questions. After the description of Honor imagining Tisi having a forked tongue, I had a dream about 3 snakes (the 3 furies) so it was clearly working on me at both a conscious and unconscious level. I had interesting reactions as I moved from chapter to chapter: I felt the boundaries got blurred between characters. It took me a while to realise that the dream was alchemical. The colours used on the cover of the book are the colours of alchemy: black, red and white and I wondered if they had been chosen consciously. This book is about a woman’s transformation through integrating her shadow and journeying to wholeness. I recommend it to any woman wishing to follow a similar path. My own journey has certainly been facilitated by reading this book. Thank you.
I loved this book. There is a really gripping story about betrayal revenge and pent up anger. Feelings which can gnaw at your soul without your actually realizing it. Voula’s characters are completely different between themselves but each of them have their own inner turmoils which through the story are revealed. Honor the psychologist, apparently balanced, adult and in control has her inner self thrown in a turmoil after an encounter with a patient and a newspaper article. These events churn up really old ghosts from the past and she loses control and behaves almost like one of her patients.
Madalena on the other hand is at face value a superficial trophy wife, but she also has a story behind her which comes out in the course of the book and is in fact a very solitary and sad story. Although the story can be read at face value as an intriguing novel, it provokes thought and when you put it down your find yourself thinking about relationships, emotions and question what and how you would react in these situations (if you have not been unfortunate enough to experience them first hand).
I would definitely recommend this novel, it is a book you will want to read more than once and your will find new food for thought each time.
As a psychologist I found this debut novel by Voula Grand absolutely fascinating and I could not wait to find out how events would unfold. The central character, Dr Honor Sinclair, a psychiatrist and therapist, is thrown into crisis when a counselling session with a client, combined with several other coinciding events, converge to surface her own unresolved issues from the past. The plot is totally absorbing and it is clear that in the scenarios described Voula draws upon her own rich experience as a psychologist coaching individuals over several decades. I feel this book should be required reading for psychologists, counsellors and coaches alike as it is extremely thought provoking concerning the personal lenses we use to understand and interpret the experiences of others and how these lenses can sometimes distort reality, influence our own and others’ behaviour, and have a pervasive impact upon ensuing events. The insights I have gained from this book will stay with me for a very long time and will certainly enrich my work. Thank you Voula!