Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Shadow and Light

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Shadow and Light

A Novel

by Jonathan Rabb

Shadow and Light by Jonathan Rabb X
Shadow and Light by Jonathan Rabb
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2009, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2010, 384 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Joanne Collings
Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book

This article relates to Shadow and Light

Print Review

Nikolai Hoffner is, he admits, not a big fan of the cinema, so meeting studio executives and the well-known director Fritz Lang does not much impress him. Lang's immediate friendliness, however, does have an effect on the jaded police detective. [Lang] "looked at Hoffner as if the two had had this conversation a thousand times: the intimacy was oddly engaging." If Hoffner hasn't spent much time watching movies, Lang had spent considerable time watching the police. "'There has to be authenticity to film, an honesty of purpose....You have to be inspired by truth and then find the reality beyond it.' Hoffner had never considered a reality beyond truth, but in this little [editing] room it might have made sense."

MetropolisHoffner is thrown into a world quite unlike anything in his experience. The German film industry is battling the American studios at every turn; much of this is described in Shadow and Light. Lang himself is re-cutting Metropolis; after giving him much freedom in the making of it, the studio is desperate to make some money back. The race to be the first to bring sound to the movies is fully engaged; the ins and outs of that struggle are a major part of the plot. Hoffner meets the German who developed a device significantly better than that used in The Jazz Singer (often considered the first "talkie"), which is about to be released, and learns that directors are not alone in how seriously they consider their work. "'Without sound... all you have is shadow and light. Flat, souless, barren. Sound is the third dimension. Sound is what gives it texture. Sound is what makes it real.'" But a new discovery takes it further than that. "'Sound has movement, Inspector. One place one moment, another the next. ... [F]ind a way to capture sound in motion - then you have the fourth dimension. The passage of time through sound. There's no greater reality than that.'"

Yet another kind of reality is on the march: the Nazis, who use the film industry against their enemies even as they use it to promote themselves to the German people. The young Jewish actor Hoffner meets through Lang must change his name - Lazlo Loewenstein to Peter Lorre - because the real one won't look good on a movie poster in Germany. Lorre will eventually get a starring role in Lang's film M in 1931, written by Lang's second wife, Thea von Harbou (also a character in Shadow and Light), a Nazi party member who stayed in Germany when Lang left after his next film was banned by the Nazis. Lang seems to have been one of those who thrive under most conditions. Lorre's life, which ended when he was just 60, however, was scarred by failed marriages and drug and alcohol problems. One wonders how much he was haunted by the fact that his role in M -- a pedophile and serial child-killer -- was used as propaganda by the Nazis against the Jews and to point to the depravity they saw taking over their country, especially Berlin.

As the fictional Alby Pimm, speaking of Berlin, says to Hoffner, "[t]hings would get a little wild, a new craze, and she'd find a way to rein herself back in. She doesn't seems to know how to do that anymore.'"

Filed under

Article by Joanne Collings

This "beyond the book article" relates to Shadow and Light. It originally ran in April 2009 and has been updated for the March 2010 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Souvenir Museum
    The Souvenir Museum
    by Elizabeth McCracken
    Elizabeth McCracken's book The Souvenir Museum is composed of 12 short stories populated by ...
  • Book Jacket: First Person Singular
    First Person Singular
    by Haruki Murakami
    Readers familiar with Haruki Murakami will know that music is often a central theme in his work. The...
  • Book Jacket: Yolk
    Yolk
    by Mary Choi
    Mary H.K. Choi's young adult offering Yolk deftly maintains several plotlines running through the ...
  • Book Jacket: The Blizzard Party
    The Blizzard Party
    by Jack Livings
    It is 1978 and the place is New York City. A massive bacchanalian party is taking place at an Upper ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Widow Queen
    by Elzbieta Cherezinska

    The epic story of an 11th century Polish queen whose life and name were all but forgotten until now.

    Reader Reviews
  • Book Jacket

    The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman
    by Julietta Henderson

    A charming, uplifting debut about a mother and her 12-year-old son, an aspiring comedian.

    Reader Reviews
Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
Miss Austen
by Gill Hornby
A witty, poignant novel about Cassandra Austen and her famous sister, Jane.
Who Said...

People who bite the hand that feeds them usually lick the boot that kicks them

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

P M Fly

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.