Like The Violets of March and The Bungalow, Blackberry Winter fluctuates between two time periods where an unsolved mystery from the earlier time period comes to light decades later and a female protagonist works to find the truth, including an unexpected connection to her own life.
Blackberry Winter is set in Seattle, both in 1933 and 2010, and unlike her earlier books, Jio’s main focus is not on romance but instead on motherhood– though the romance is definitely still important.
In 1933, during a May 1st storm, the three-year-old son of single mother Vera vanishes; the only trace he leaves behind is his teddy bear– face down in the snow. In 2010, another unexpected May 1st snowstorm happens and Claire, a reporter covering it, discovers the story of the unsolved abduction and works to learn what really happened.
Just as The Bungalow found some unexpected characters from Jio’s debut appear, a few more show up for an important appearance in Blackberry Winter. Although each novel is absolutely a standalone, it’s nice to get to revisit favourite characters again, even if they aren’t always doing quite as well as you hoped.
The novel itself is probably Jio’s strongest so far, as her storytelling has an emotion to it that is heartbreaking regardless of if it is Vera or Claire narrating. There are some striking images, such as the teddy bear, and the theme of motherhood is especially powerful.
Jio’s transition from one time period to another is incredibly smooth and I never got confused about which story I was reading. Her writing is easy to read, but has some lovely details immerse the reader in the setting and time period. The snowy scenery makes it a perfect read winter read.
Like Jio’s first two books, Blackberry Winter certainly has some convenient coincidences in it, but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment of it, and even when I could mostly tell how things were going to turn it, there was a surprise or two in store.
After three novels there are certain things that can be expected of Jio, in particular a page-turning mystery that is also engaging on an emotional level, such as Blackberry Winter provides. I will certainly be picking up her fourth book, The Last Camellia, which is released on May 28th.
Release Date: November 27th 2012 Pages: 290 Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher Publisher: Penguin Buy It: Book Depository