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What Is a Split-time Novel and Why Do Readers Love Them?

Bestselling author Katherine Reay discusses the purpose and appeal of split-time novels, as well as recommending titles for both readers and writers.

Whether you call them dual-, slip- or split-time novels, this genre’s dynamic format has exploded onto the literary scene—and we love them for more than just getting two books for the price of one.

What Is a Split-time Novel and Why Do Readers Love Them?

Split-time novels present a cohesive story across two time periods—and, while it’s not a prerequisite of the form, one period is often our own. To me, that’s part of the appeal, both as a reader and as a writer. The interplay between then and now invites us to explore history while pushing us to question its implications in our own time and lives. It takes us someplace new, creating intrigue and tension as the storylines circle and influence each other.

And then there’s the value proposition—who doesn’t want two for the price of one? Yet, the math doesn’t quite work. In a spit-time novel we get so much more than two individual stories threaded together, we get literary magic. When done well, the conversation isn’t one way. The past doesn’t lecture the present; it listens too, creating an exchange both on the surface and deep within the novel’s meta-currents.

If this introduction to the genre has enticed you to give it a try or if you love it and are simply looking for your next great read, here are four split-time novels I have thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend.

(Writing Multiple Timelines and Points of View)

What Is a Split-time Novel and Why Do Readers Love Them?

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

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Spanning generations and continents, two women strive to uncover their family’s secret past. Beginning in 1913 Australia and ending today on England’s Cornish coast, The Forgotten Garden weaves a beautiful mystery of self-discovery that holds you captive until the every end.

And there’s more … So many of Morton’s books are split-time novels and she handles each time period and each story impeccably. Enjoy!

What Is a Split-time Novel and Why Do Readers Love Them?

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

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Gripping from word one, Before We Were Yours was an instant hit and rightfully so. Based on a real-life scandal, Wingate weaves a tale which begins in 1939 and follows one family from Rill, a child in Georgia Tann’s notorious Memphis-based adoption agency, to her granddaughter Avery, a federal prosecutor and daughter of a present-day senator, who seeks to unravel the truth. Devastating, compelling, and ultimately hope-filled, Before We Were Yours is a must-read.

Wingate also wrote the split-time novel, The Book of Lost Friends, crossing between a contemporary storyline and one set in the post-Civil-War South. It’s outstanding as well.

What Is a Split-time Novel and Why Do Readers Love Them?

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

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Kate Quinn’s smashing bestseller crosses between two world wars as one woman—a female spy working in the real-life Alice Network during World War I—helps an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in post-World War II war-torn France. It’s a gripping story of courage, redemption, friendship, and love.

And be sure to check out Quinn’s latest offering, The Rose Code, which bounces between early World War II and the eve of Princess Elizabeth’s marriage in 1947.

What Is a Split-time Novel and Why Do Readers Love Them?

The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel

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This beautiful tale and instant New York Times-bestseller was inspired by the true story of forgers working in World War II, who saved hundreds of Jewish children fleeing the Nazis. The story begins in 2005 when Eva Traube Abrams sees a picture in a newspaper of her beloved book, the Book of Lost Names, in which she recorded the real names of all the children she helped forge papers for in World War II France. As she journeys to claim her book, readers journey back in time to follow Eva’s growth from a frightened graduate student into a hero willing to risk all for love—love of country, love of children, love of all that is good and right, and love for one special man.

Check out Katherine Reay’s The London House:

What Is a Split-time Novel and Why Do Readers Love Them?

IndieBound | Bookshop | Amazon
[WD uses affiliate links.]

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