Von Gerhardt Brits
- Buchvorstellung (12. Jahrgang)
- 15 Punkte
Shadows - TIM BOWLER
by Gerhardt M. Brits
The book “Shadows” by Tim Bowler, written in 1999 and published in Germany in 2001 tells the reader about a boy named Jamie, and his struggle to fulfil his father’s ambitions.
Jamie is a squash-player trained by his authoritarian father, who is a disabled expert. Although the methods used by his dad are very harsh, he has enjoyed the sport until the Powells moved into town. Their son, Danny, also plays squash and Jamie has not yet beaten him once. A rivalry between Jamie’s father and Danny’s father has erupted, both ambitiously driving their sons past their utter limits. Every time Jamie loses, his father meets him in the changing room and thrashes him. When the atmosphere in their home becomes unbearable, Jamie goes to hide in their garden shed. There he notices that his bedding was used by someone else. In time he gets to know the secret stowaway, a pregnant girl on the run from two villains, and eventually Jamie decides to run away from home with her. She mentions that she owes the two men looking for her a lot of money. When they are eventually caught by the two men, after being chased across town and onto the school premises, Jamie consents to paying the girl’s debts to save her. The money, which Jamie then borrows from his best friend, Spider, who has been economizing for a sports car he wants to buy, is to be delivered to the villains at a certain lay-by by six o’clock that same evening. After the delivery Jamie hurries off to the final meeting with the girl under a bridge close by, arriving just in time to aid her in giving birth to her little boy, whom she decidedly names after Jamie. Subsequently the girl tells him her name, Abby, and together they set off for a shelter Abby has the address of. During the time in the shelter Jamie discovers that Abby is Danny’s sister, cast aside by their father, because she is not a ‘winner’. Angered, Jamie realizes he has to return home and come to terms with the life he tried to flee from.
Upon his arrival Jamie finds his home uninhabited and barren, though exceedingly tidy. He then makes his way towards the squash courts, where the Regional Championships were to commence. Jamie plays vigorously and wins against Danny with an extraordinary lead. Afterwards Jamie strides up to the gallery and starts seriously punching Mr. Powell for the way he treated Abby, only to be pulled away by bystanders. Later in the changing rooms Jamie energetically confronts his silent father about the way things used to be, learning that in the meanwhile his mother has committed suicide after finding and reading a diary Jamie used to keep before he left. His father is a broken man now, realizing his bygone mistakes and somehow trying to apologize.
That night Jamie wanders out to the garden shed once more, thinking of Abby and her words: ‘Whenever you see your shadow, Jamie, just remember you’re looking at me.’
Jamie Williams, protagonist
Jamie is the sixteen year old son of Ron Williams and his wife, living in Ashingford in the south of England. The guide line of Jamie’s life is and has always been squash, leaving him no opportunity for other hobbies.
Jamie’s father treats him unfairly and Jamie realizes this. It becomes evitable during the first dialog Jamie has with his father, indicating that he has high moral principles (p.15 ll.31-34).
Even though Jamie shows signs of confronting his father, these signs remain vague and unfruitful, showing he is easily intimidated. This is also underlined in the way he plays squash, because he finds himself unable to muster aggression in the face of inferiority (p.20 ll.7-12). This extract also shows how he tries to find excuses for his inabilities, avoiding confrontation even with himself, perhaps as a result of the uncertainty caused by his intimidated state of mind.
Jamie has one trait that extends beyond all: his caring nature. It is the one trait that is shown throughout the entire book, starting in the fifth chapter, when he meets Abby. She is a total stranger to him, yet he helps her, giving her shelter in his private hiding place. When she thanks him he notices that her voice “wasn’t a soft voice – but it wasn’t a hard voice, either. It was a tired voice, a voice that spoke of pain.” (p.31 ll.66-67). To be able to distinguish a strange person’s state by their tone of voice bears witness of a character used to listening intently to other people.
Later Jamie goes out of his way to assist Abby in her tragic situation, even conquering himself in a sense, when he asks his friend, Spider, to lend him the large amount of money needed to pay off the gangsters (pp.110-111). This occasion shows two different important facts: a) Jamie’s above mentioned caring nature and b) a process of change that is taking place in Jamie. In the beginning of the book there was no indication of Jamie being able to show this much courage, even to his best friend.
Right before he leaves Jamie writes a short letter to his parents. He thinks that “he wasn’t sure he had anything to say to Dad.” (p.116 l.24). Even now that his parents were in fact powerless over him he stays intimidated by his father. Another scenario would have been plausible: Jamie speaking his mind, thinking that his parents cannot harm him any more. The fact that he did not choose this response shows that he still had respect for his parents, even his father, which in turn gives you an idea about the honourable character manifested in Jamie.
The letter itself is not in any way aggressive, but rather comforting, hardly explanatory, slightly evading. Jamie writes “I’m going away to live my own life.” (p.116 ll.33-37). This choice of words implicates that beforehand he was living someone else’s life, which can be interpreted as an unintentional explanation of his disappearance.
The next sentence of the letter is introduced with the word “please”. It sounds very desperate, suggesting that Jamie is not at all at ease with the choice he made, experiencing fear, but that it was really the only alternative he could find.
Considering all the fragile traits now cited (even having a caring nature can be falsely interpreted as weakness), it has to be concluded that Jamie essentially always had a strong character beneath the surface of quiet seclusion, because none of his relentless experiences could shatter his (perhaps unconscious) belief in the good in himself and in the world.
In my opinion, to fully justify Jamie’s character, one needs to write two characterizations, because there is an obvious process of change in his character during the book. The Jamie in the last scenes is full of certainty, courage, conviction and inner strength, completely different from the Jamie the book starts out with, presenting the reader with a very realistic character. I find that in real life experiences change people psychologically and physically, sometimes beyond recognition. In addition I believe that at Jamie’s age almost all young people have trouble trying to find out where they belong and who they want to be. Because of this Jamie makes an inspiring impression on how one can prevail over insurmountable odds.
Extract: p. 73 l. 64 p. 77 l. 65 (in excerpts)
‘Right, boys. Let’s see who’s got the gas!’
Danny made to start pedalling and instinctively Jamie found himself doing the same. But Greg reached out a hand to each of them and they stopped.
‘You,’ he said, looking at Danny, ‘are here to train, not compete.’ He turned to Powell. ‘And you’re here to watch, not egg him on. Save your rivalry for the squash court.’ His eyes fixed on Jamie. ‘And you’re not ready for this setting.’ He leaned across to adjust it.
Dad reached forward and stopped him.
‘Leave it. He’s managed that setting before. He’s used to it.’
‘He’s not ready.’
‘He is. Ask him yourself.’
Jamie felt Greg’s eyes burn into him. But his father’s eyes burned deeper still. And in spite of himself, the answer stuttered out.
‘It’s … it’s fine. I’m … I’m OK with it.’
Soon the strain in his legs was starting to tell. He lowered his head and forced himself to drive his legs down, down, down. Already he yearned to stop, and they had only been going a short time.
Danny must be hurting, too. He surely couldn’t keep this up either. But the whirr of the pedals went on next to him. Then the talking started. Dad first.
‘Come on, boy, don’t ease up.’
‘Go on. Danny, go on.’
Jamie scowled at the two men. They just couldn’t resist, despite what Greg had said. He wondered what Danny was feeling and whether he, too, wanted to make a contest out of this. He looked at Danny and the glance that came back told him all.
It was war.
Dad snorted. ‘There’s only one baby round here. And it’s nor Jamie.’
Powell’s face darkened at once. ‘All right. A hundred quid. And I’ll see you damned.’
‘Done. Excuse me if I don’t shake hands.’
The two men turned back to the bikes.
But the contest was already over.
Jamie was falling. He remembered hearing them close the bet and turning to look at him. He remembered the terror of not being able to breathe, of feeling his legs numb and useless, his will spent, his balance gone. He remembered the floor, walls, ceiling slipping out of alignment, the handlebars moving closer. He remembered Greg running forward.
He remembered Dad’s face.
Then nothing more.
1. What led to Jamie meeting Abby?
2. Under which circumstances did Abby have her baby?