A Shadow in Yucatan

General Fiction

By Philippa Rees

Publisher : Collaborart Books

ABOUT Philippa Rees

Philippa Rees
I was born in South Africa in 1941 and, looking back, realise my solitude (only child, single mother) was the root of all enrichment in other directions, necessarily spending  school holidays on safaris with my beloved multilingual grandfather inspecting schools in the remote interior of  More...


A mythical jewel of a story… A true story told on a beach in Yucatan, A Shadow tells Stephanie's story but it was also the story of the golden time. Its nostalgia sings like cicadas in the heat.

An American ‘Under Milkwood’, this distilled novel of the Sixties evokes the sounds, music and optimism on the free-wheelin streets and parks of Coconut Grove. You can hear Bob Dylan still strumming acoustic; smoke a joint with Fred Neil; and Everybody’s Talkin is carried on the wind.

Stephanie, a young hairdresser living in lodgings finds herself pregnant. Refused help from her hard Catholic mother in New York, unable to abort her baby, she accepts the kindness of Miriam, her Jewish landlady, whose own barren life spills into compassionate assistance for the daughter she never had.

The poignancy of its ending, its generosity and acceptance, echoes the bitter disappointment of those of us who hoped for so much more, but who remember its joy, and its promise, as though untarnished by time.

I met a girl on a beach in Yucatan in 1968, and as the sun was setting on the landscape and her life she told me why she was there. A story almost too much to bear. Years later after the birth of my youngest daughter I remembered that girl, and lived through her anew. Her story was too large for a short story or for less than poetic myth. It was the story of that mythical time. I have written it for her; to commemorate her courage and to remember what we all lost when the sun went down on the sixties. The characters that carry her through this book were missing then, and are all fictional. I came to love those that cared for her, as though they had.

‘I was utterly awestruck by the writing skill and breadth of imaginative evocation.....poetic, elegiac...almost unbearably intense...sensuous imagery from both nature and modern urban living...musical, both rhythmic and assonant...sustained dramatic tension within a simple everyday story....the superficiality of the beauty salon is a very potent metaphor....’ Alison Jakes (Poetry Circle)

As with a highly literary novel, this ambitious story makes demands upon its readers. As with most modern poetry it deserves to be read and re-read….. The story is a vehicle for some impressive poetry. It is highly emotional and transforms the ordinary protagonist into an archetypal figure of suffering motherhood. ‘Speech must now grow from silence and the stones that cockle the black backs Of women in pre-history, left alone with the consequence of men’ There is religious dimension too. Throughout there are subtle references to the Christian Nativity, and on another level it tells of Christ’s birth and Mary’s suffering in modern terms. It contrasts the cruelty of the girl’s Catholic mother, with the compassion of her Jewish landlady. There is implicit criticism of the hypocrisy of society as a whole….The poem has a social purpose. Katherine Knight (Real Writers)

Philippa Rees is as an immediately distinctive and striking poet who writes with unfashionably – often brilliant – painterly verbal play and colour, oozing with a sensuous love of language. Rees’s almost tangible style dazzles with imagistic chiaroscuro; stark contrasts of light and shade, subtext and texture: This ripeness of verbiage and intrinsic musicality inevitably bring comparisons with Dylan Thomas (particularly the densely descriptive, rumble-tumble list- passages of Under Milk Wood): But this is not to detract from Rees’s individuality, which, throughout this book of poetic narrative interspersed with colourful dialogue, is palpable and often beguiling. She is prone to the lingering aphorism that is imaginatively her own— Lethargy, that toothless crone, skims perpetual indifference from the cream of richer care. …the drifting necklace of leaves that swung from the throat of shade For my part, I read A Shadow in Yucatán mainly for its poetry, its play with language, image and sound, rather than strictly trying to follow the actual narrative. Approaching this book with a sort of Negative Capability, I experienced it in terms of descriptive impression, verbal effect. In this respect, A Shadow in Yucatán is disarmingly beautiful (Alan Morrison, Editor The Recusant)

The back blurb calls ‘A Shadow in Yucatán’ a ‘distilled novel’ and it is –a home brew, raw and omnipotent! Rees makes extraordinary the sorrowful ordinary of an unwanted pregnancy and the resulting difficult decisions. She celebrates the sense of community, despairs of family and counts on the generosity of strangers. She explores problems and finds solutions – hard through they are to take – in unexpected places Through it we enter a world as real as we are, but as foreign to us as a bad dream. This book is a must for any intelligent reader! (Independent Reviews)