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The Lives of Shadows


A dozen years ago, when Barbara Hodgson and Nick Bantock were brainstorming on the name for their West Coast book design company, they wanted something that would reflect their passion for travel and ideals of craftsmanship while evoking the magic and heartbreak of sensuous indulgence – and that’s when Byzantium Books was born.

Hodgson’s The Lives of Shadows is the latest objet d’art to come out of Byzantium’s workshop, and it’s a jewel. Printed on pages that look as if they’ve been tinted with fig juice and saffron, it’s a novel hidden within the flotsam and jetsam of old clippings, photographs, journal entries,
and geometric doodles.

On this trip, Hodgson takes the reader to the ancient city of Damascus during the violent French occupation of the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s, and smuggles us inside Bait Katib, a former Damascene palace. In a courtyard a struggle erupts between the current occupant, the Englishman Julian, and relatives of the eponymous Katib family, both of whom claim ownership. As shelling collapses the surrounding buildings and Bait Katib shimmers with a thousand tiny mirrors, Julian scrambles to piece together his right to this precarious abode. A love story unfolds as Julian embarks on an emotional journey through the house and himself in search of this elusive presence.


Reviewer: Alison Garwood-Jones

Publisher: Chronicle Books/Raincoast


Price: $34.95

Page Count: 192 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 0-8118-3926-5

Issue Date: 2004-4

Categories: Art, Music & Pop Culture