Monday, January 6, 2014

Book Review: In the Shadow of Blackbirds, by Cat Winters @catwinters

In the Shadow of Blackbirds is my kind of book, you guys. Historical fiction with a little macabre twist. Yummy!

It's 1918, and the world is in turmoil. The U.S. has entered the war, and there's a world-wide flu epidemic and people are dying by the thousands. Our main character, Mary Shelley, has to leave her home in Portland to stay with her Aunt Eva in San Diego. Her mother died in childbirth, and her father just got arrested for treason.

She's is worried about her father, but excited about seeing her best friend, Stephen, who moved to San Diego.

There are so many aspects to this rich story. First, the flu. Everyone wears masks. They have all these things that supposedly keep you from catching it. Eating onions. Chewing garlic flavored gum. Drinking kerosene. Of course, none of it worked very well, and it seems only a small percent of people survive this deadly disease.

The war. When Mary Shelley visits Stephen, who wants to be a photographer like his father, it is the day before he leaves to enlist in the army. There relationship has progressed into the romantic area, and Mary Shelley is devastated that Stephen is going to war. This was the first war that had things like machine guns and horrible fighting conditions, so there were many soldiers killed or maimed. Mary Shelley eventually volunteers at a hospital for those wounded in the war.

Spiritualism. People were dying right and left. Their relatives were desperate for some consolation. So, spiritualism became very popular. Seances were common. Stephen's brother, Julius, has a thriving business taking portraits of people where the spirits of their dead relatives appear after the picture is developed. Both Mary Shelley and Stephen think this is a scam. But Aunt Eva is a believer.

Mary Shelley gets struck by lightening, and it changes her. She can now see spirits, and feel their pain. I don't want to say too much more about this, because it involves some spoilers. But this is the main element of the mystery in In the Shadow of Blackbirds.

The end involved some surprises that were unexpected and enjoyable. There's a nice resolution to the story, although not entirely happy. How could it be, with all this suffering? I learned a lot about this period in time, especially what it was like trying to avoid getting sick. The flu ended up killing more people that WWI!

In the Shadow of Blackbirds reads so easily and quickly. I couldn't put it down and when I had to, I kept thinking about it. I had the urge to wear a mask when going out! As you can tell, I was pretty immersed in the story. And I love that feeling.

If you enjoy historical fiction, I would highly recommend In the Shadow of Blackbirds. Even if you don't like paranormal stories, this is very subtle. The spiritualism "epidemic" makes the paranormal aspects of the story seem very realistic. I really need to start pushing this one to my students. I think I know many of them that will enjoy In the Shadow of Blackbirds.

Published by Amulet Books, April 2, 2013
Copy obtained from the library
390 pages

Rating: 5/5

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  1. I had seen this book and wondered how it was. Nice review!!

  2. I got this on audio to listen to recently. I cant wait to start it. Wonderful review. I love historical fiction and this one just sounds creepy and awesome.

  3. This book sounds so good! I've been meaning to read it for awhile, but now I must push myself to get to it soon! Great review!


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