Books Set in Different Time Periods

There are various ways to create a compelling and intriguing narrative. One of them is to write a story taking place in different time periods, that is to say to pen a book whose chapters are set in various identifiable years, or even centuries, more often than not alternatively. Such books can sometimes be more mysterious and seem more complex than ones that are mainly set during the same time period throughout and that just feature flashbacks and prolepsis within chapters. From the ones that I’ve read and enjoyed to varying degrees, five immediately sprang to mind.

 

The Muse by Jessie Burton

An enthralling and atmospheric book, The Muse by Jessie Burton is a novel that delves into racism and explores the unequal treatment of women. Two time periods are connected by a mysterious painting. In 1967, Odelle Bastien, who moved from Trinidad to London, starts working as a typist at the Skelton Gallery. While at a wedding party, she meets Lawrie, who has a painting to sell. In 1936, Olive Schloss arrives at a house in rural Spain and wonders how to tell her parents that she has been accepted to do a Fine Arts degree.

 

The Glass Hotel by Emily St John Mandel

The many chapters of The Glass Hotel by Emily St John Mandel are set in different years, some of them being 1999, 2005 and 2008. Vincent lost her mother when she was only 13 years of age, so she had to go live with her aunt for a couple of years. Her half-brother also had a complicated life, having spent several years in rehab. Her life changes thanks to an encounter with Jonathan Alkaitis, a New York financier, at the hotel she works in. Continue reading

Advertisement

Six Degrees of Separation – from ‘Our Wives under the Sea’ to ‘Hotel Iris’

It’s the beginning of the month, which means that it’s time for another chain of books. Six Degrees of Separation is a bookish meme created by Kate from Books are My Favourite and Best. Every month Kate chooses one book to start the chain and we just have to select other six, each connected in some way with the previous one.

For April the first book is Our Wives under the Sea by Julia Armfield, which I haven’t read yet, though I enjoyed her collection of short stories Salt Slow. In her debut novel, Miri is happy that her wife, Leah, has returned home from a deep-sea mission. Leah is struggling, however, as that mission has not ended well.

The title of Julia Armfield’s novel reminds me of the short story collection Diving Belles by Lucy Wood. The main character in the first tale, which is memorably atmospheric, goes under the sea on a diving belle to see her husband. The sea is, in fact, a recurring element in many of the stories featured in this collection. Continue reading

‘The Glass Hotel’ by Emily St. John Mandel

My rating: 4 stars

The cast of characters in The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel is vast. Almost all of them have one thing in common – they have met Jonathan Alkaitis at some point in time, which irreversibly changed their lives. The story is told from various points of view and goes back and forward in time, similar to Station Eleven. Although the narration is initially not thorough enough, the novel becomes consistently more enveloping and gripping, as the characters dwell on their tribulations and their connection with one another is established.

In 1999, Paul was at the University of Toronto studying Finance. He would have preferred to major in musical composition, but after several years in rehab, his mother wanted him to study for a degree that offered more prospects. He once met a group of people in a band at a dance club. He was smitten by the young woman in the group, Annika, and offered them some pills. The heart of one of them, Charlie, stopped and he died on the dance floor. That still haunted Paul.

Sometime after, Paul decided to go look for his half-sister, Vincent. Her mother had died when she was 13 years old, reason why she went to live with their aunt for a few years. He didn’t hate her. However, he felt some resentment, since their father had left his mother shortly before Vincent was born. Continue reading

Paperback Releases I’m Excited About

Paperbacks should be far more appreciated! They are light and compact, fitting perfectly in our bags, which allows us, devoted readers, to take them everywhere. Very rarely do I buy the hardback editions of books, despite them being published at least a year earlier than paperbacks in the UK (publishing practices in Portugal are entirely different in this regard).

At the moment, there are seven books that I’m excited to read in paperback, although I probably won’t be able to get to them all this year.

 

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

I have sky-high expectations for this novel, as it has not only been highly praised by many reviewers, but it has also won the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2020. In 1596, a little girl, who lives in Stratford-upon-Avon, is taken ill with a fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, tries to find someone to help them, since they are alone at home. Agnes, their mother, is in a garden where she plants medicinal herbs, and their father, who happens to be Shakespeare, is working in London. They still have no idea that Hamnet will not live long. It will be released in paperback on the 1st of April. Continue reading