In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters
Amulet Books (ebook), 2013
I borrowed this e-book from my library as part of Overdrive’s Big Library Read. Two titles have been chosen this time. I borrowed both but couldn’t get into the other one (a collection of children’s fairy tales) so I returned it.
What It’s About
In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love—a boy who died in battle—returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?
Featuring haunting archival early-twentieth-century photographs, this is a tense, romantic story set in a past that is eerily like our own time.
I STEPPED INSIDE THE RAILROAD CAR, AND THREE DOZEN pairs of eyes peered my way. Gauze masks concealed the passenger’s mouths and noses. The train smelled of my own mask’s cotton, boiling onions, and a whiff of something clammy and sour I took to be fear.
What I Thought
I loved In the Shadow of Blackbirds. I’m crying as I write this. My partner is giving me odd looks but smiling. She’s used to such behaviour now and again when I love a book as much as I did this one.
Where to begin? I loved so many things about this book.
First of all, the setting was fantastic. I felt like I was really in 1918 in a world crippled by Spanish influenza. The time and place was really vivid and alive. My kobo is broken so I had to read the book on my laptop screen, not ideal, but I got so lost in the book I barely noticed when my back ached my legs got stiff and store. I was right there in the world inhabited by Mary Shelley Black, Aunt Evie and the other characters.
I loved the characters. They were all well-written and totally believable. I adored Mary Shelley Black. I thought she was a great heroine, just the perfect mix of feisty and gentle. I thought everyone else was well-written by Mary Shelley Black struck a chord with me.
I loved the storyline in the novel. I loved Mary Shelley’s quest to find out the truth and the various twists and turns she gets embroiled in. I don’t want to include any spoilers but a lot of trauma and tragedy happens but there is light and dark as well. I was literary in tears by the end.
I thought the photographs scattered throughout were a nice touch, similar to what Ransom Riggs does with his books.
In the Shadow of Blackbirds is brilliant – one of those rare novels that makes you glad to be alive and in a world where such greatness exists. Absolutely loved it. I need to read more by this author.