‘The Shades’ by Evgenia Citkowitz – An English Gothic Drama with Cell Phones


‘The Shades’ by Evgenia Citkowitz   (2018) – 197 pages


‘The Shades’ is a modern novel for which the phrase “English Gothic” could have been invented if the term hadn’t already been used for over 200 years.

In the novel, we have a family haunted by the recent sudden death of one of its members, the 17 year old daughter Rachel, in a car accident. The rest of the family, mother Catherine and father Michael and brother Rowan, nearly tear the family and themselves apart in grief and remorse as often happens to a family after a tragedy like this.

While Catherine stays in their isolated mansion Hamdean, Michael often stays in London on business. Is Catherine dealing with her daughter’s terrible death in a rational manner or is she descending into madness herself? Another blow to the family is when their son Rowan decides to move out of their house.

A few months after the accident, a young woman Kiera Martin nearly the same age as their deceased daughter mysteriously appears at the mansion. Catherine immediately takes an interest in her. Is Catherine viewing the girl as a possible replacement for her lost daughter? It turns out that Kiera had lived in the Hamdean house with her mother in the past. Yes, there is a big old house that plays a critical role in this unnerving dark story.

I have previously read Evgenia Citkowitz’ first work of fiction ‘Ether’ which is a collection of stories and a novella. I was much impressed with her handling of the strangeness and wonder of people’s real lives in these stories. Because she handles this everyday strangeness so well, Gothic fiction would seem to be a perfect fit for Citkowitz.

As it turns out, ‘The Shades’ is a modern English Gothic fiction of a higher literary order than most Gothic fictions. The individual sentences are clear, meaningful and well-written, and they held my interest throughout.

The novel reaches its dramatic open-ended conclusion (in the mansion, of course), leaving the reader wondering what really happened.


Grade:    A



3 responses to this post.

  1. This one sounds pretty good, Tony! I like to switch between “recognized” classics and contemporary works; this one goes on my list for the latter (I love Gothic). Many thanks!

    Liked by 1 person


  2. […] In addition to The Weekend, I spent what could have been a tedious airport layover pleasantly absorbed in Evgenia Citkowitz’s The Shades, thanks to a recommendation from Tony’s Book World: […]

    Liked by 1 person


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