The Picture She Took by Fiona Shaw

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The Independent Culture

Jude Hurston is the woman who took the photograph; she was a nurse in Belgium during the First World War, where the commander had previously fought. Now back home in York and psychologically damaged by what she has seen in Belgium, she has taken a job as a typist in her brother's firm while she decides what to do with her life. One day, Daniel arrives on her doorstep, looking for information about the photograph. He recognises his commander, but has suspicions about the other man in the picture, whom the commander has his arm around.

In a reversal of the classic romance model boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl-back, Shaw has Daniel and Jude meet, only for Daniel to run away to Ireland to try and face his demons and it's the girl, Jude, who does the chasing. She too wants to know the truth about the photograph - the man beside the commander is only an anonymous young Irishman to her - as she realises it is the key to Daniel's recovery and, perhaps, to her own.

Shaw could have been more political in her approach - the Irish struggle for independence is really only represented by stories of pain inflicted on individuals - and some of the writing is almost too beautiful for such troubling subject matter. Nevertheless she expertly weaves both Irish and British experiences of this time, showing one impinging on the other in a way that is rarely done.

She has a great talent for getting right to the inner core of her characters - Jude's trepidation about the future, Daniel's preoccupation with the past - which prevents them being swamped by the large canvas she has constructed around them.