I’ve been making the drive back and forth to our Cincinnati office the last two weeks (about 3.5 hours in good traffic) and audiobooks are the perfect entertainment. I can catch up on my reading while I drive and some books are just better on audio. This week, I managed to pick up two books with similar themes, although told in very different ways. The first, and definitely the better of the two, is Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick.
This isn’t my usual reading fair – there’s more romance than I normally go for – but the premise is interesting. Seven interwoven stories, seven different time periods, three names that turn up again and again. Eric, Merle, and Tor appear over and over in these stories: Eric is a journalist in the near future, writing an investigative article on a mysterious island in the far north where residents seem to live forever. Tor and Merle are a married couple who rescue a wartime aviator who crashes on their property. Merle and Eric are brother and sister, living among the Vikings, and Tor is their uncle. The relationships change, the situations change, but these characters inhabit every story. As we move back in time, back to the beginning of their story, they are constantly reaching out to each other, circling around each other.
This reminded me a bit of Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, one of my all-time favorite novels. It’s not in that class, but they cover some of the same territory: the idea that we are surrounded by people we know and love, throughout many lives and incarnations. In the ebb and flow of time and reincarnation, these people always come to the same place. They are always connected to one another.
I think what I enjoyed about this is the way that the stories differ. It is not as though these characters lead the same lives, fall in love in the same way, or even relate to each other the same way, time after time. Merle and Eric might be lovers, or they might be mother and son. It made the stories more interesting, as you watched the various connections unfold. I also liked watching for the small details that tied the stories together — the bit of wood in the grave, the painting, the hare. They give the reader something to discover, something to watch for in each story, and you get to wonder and speculate on how the details in each story will manifest as you move through the centuries.
Midwinterblood made for a very entertaining ride. The second novel I spoke of, which I hope to finish and review next week, isn’t faring nearly as well. This audiobook came to me through the Kent Free Libary.