Having read ‘The Cure for Dreaming’ by the same author it seems that Winters has an eye for period detail and is fascinated by the supernatural and its place in our world.
‘In the Shadow of Blackbirds’ is set in America in 1918, and the attention to detail is to be applauded. Through the eyes of sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black we see the effects of war, Spanish influenza and the Spiritualist craze on a small group of people. There’s a lot packed in here, and I felt the writer created an intriguing background to events.
The story itself focuses on Mary and what happens to her when she is sent to live with her Swiss aunt. Mary is scornful of her aunt’s fascination with the latest craze for Spiritualist activity and she is dismissive of the efforts of an old friend of the family, who is determined to prove through his photographs that ghosts exist. When Stephen, the man she loves, is killed in war Mary becomes reckless. She is struck by lightning, and then seems able to communicate with Stephen.
If you are not prepared to accept the characters’ interest in ghosts then I would imagine you will not enjoy this novel. Mary’s initial scepticism is challenged, and there were moments that I felt it was all too incredible. However, it was a story that engaged me from the start, and the light it sheds on the experiences of people in war was to be applauded.