Sunday, August 24, 2014
In the Shadow of Blackbirds takes place in 1918. 1918 is a momentous year. It is the last year of World War I, and the Spanish Influenza is killing more people worldwide than the war. People are living in grief and no family is untouched by death. Spiritualism is all the rage because people want evidence their loved ones are on the other side and that there is a reason for all the madness.
The main character is named Mary Shelley Black after the author of Frankenstein. She is 16 and doesn't believe in ghosts or spirits until her true love joins the war and ends up dying. Her boyfriend's brother, Julius, is a spirit photographer and Mary doesn't trust him. She knows something is not right and that Stephen is haunted by blackbirds because his spirit visits her in the night.
This is a awesome, page turning ghost story and historical novel about WWI and the flu epidemic. It is a very enjoyable and totally creepy at the same time. Winters does an excellent job of portraying this historical period.
While I was reading this, I kept thinking about my grandparents who were babies in 1918. Their parents (my great-grandparents) must of been worried about them getting sick from the flu. I am so glad we have never had a health crisis of this magnitude since then. The widespread panic and health crisis is well written as is the descriptions faced by soldiers during the war and after. Winters presents the social issues of 1918 in a way that you will never forget. As a history teacher, I thought the history presented in the book was excellent and since I also enjoy a good ghost story, the two mixed together was just plain fun to read.