Review: 'Shadowplay,' by Joseph O'Connor

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“Shadowplay” by Joseph O’Connor; Europa Editions (400 pages, $26)


In description, “Shadowplay” sounds like it’s all about plot but, in reality, it’s all about sentences so lush you could wrap them around you like a cloak. Joseph O’Connor’s novel involves (possibly gay?) Bram Stoker writing “Dracula,” Jack the Ripper striking repeatedly, Stoker and real-life acting legends Henry Irving and Ellen Terry trying to hold a Victorian-era theater together and several relationships unraveling.

But “Shadowplay” lacks narrative momentum because O’Connor is more interested in crafting passages like this corker: “Thunder and cinders, coalman and boilerman, black cast iron and white-hot friction, rattling on the roadway of steel and olden oak as dewdrops sizzle on the flanks. Foxes slink to lairs. Fawns flit and flee. Hawks in the yews turn and stare.”


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