I for In the Shadow of Blackbirds, by Cat Winters (book review) – dead man’s worries, live girl’s fears

book cover of In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters published by AmuletSpirit photography,
Searching for answers,
Trying to find meaning for all those deaths…

Between the ongoing “Great War” (World War I) and the sudden Spanish Influenza epidemic, fall 1918 was a dangerous and desperate time in the USA. Researchers were trying to ascertain the weight of the human soul, wondering yet again what animates life.

Read the wartime poetry of Isaac Rosenberg to imagine what life in the trenches was like for Stephen, consider that scientists are still puzzled about how the Spanish Flu killed so many healthy 20- to 40-year-olds, and you too might wish to see the image of a dead loved one when the photographer’s glass plate negative was developed.

Just published on April 2, 2013 – don’t miss it!

Book info: In the Shadow of Blackbirds / Cat Winters. Amulet Books, 2013.  [author site]  [book site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer]

My recommendation: When Mary was sent to her aunt’s house in San Diego, her father thought she would be safe from the influenza epidemic, from the authorities who imprisoned him when he spoke out against the war, from fear. He couldn’t know that her sweetheart’s ghost would visit her and cry out for justice.

Schools, theaters, dance halls – all closed to keep the contagion from spreading, but in autumn 1918 the death toll is mounting here and over in Europe where countless soldiers are dying. Aunt Eva lost her husband in the earliest days of the epidemic and is trying to contact him through spirit photography and séances.

Stephen told Mary that his brother Julius used trickery to create the spirit photographs, but after her sweetheart left for the war, she visited the studio with her aunt anyway. An expert who debunks spirit photographers has found nothing fraudulent in Julius’ work where ghostly images appear next to the living.

The letters from Stephen stop arriving, a telegram comes for his family, a funeral for yet another fallen young soldier – then he starts visiting Mary in her dreams and her waking moments, begging her to make the blackbirds quit attacking him. She volunteers her time at the veterans’ center, reading to injured soldiers back from the war. One man tells her that Stephen wasn’t killed over there, and 16-year-old Mary begins to wonder what really happened.

Is she truly talking to Stephen’s spirit?
How could blackbirds have caused his death?
Why does he tell Mary to stay away from his family’s house and studio?

The author ably captures the terror of the Spanish flu epidemic which often killed within hours and the longing of people wanting to believe that death is not the end of everything in this historical novel with a psychic twist. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

2 thoughts on “I for In the Shadow of Blackbirds, by Cat Winters (book review) – dead man’s worries, live girl’s fears

  1. I’d love to read this book! The World War I era doesn’t get all that much attention, in either YA or adult historicals. It’s always heartening to hear about serious YA historicals being published these days, when it seems like the Gossip Girl in period clothes books are the ones getting all the attention. As a typography geek, I also love the font on the cover. It really calls to mind that era.

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