I hope you are having a nice week so far! Today I am looking back at some of my favourite books containing two separate timelines. The use of dual timelines is a very intriguing narrative technique as it gives the story that little bit more depth and provides the plot with an added degree of complexity.
They also bring contrast, with past timelines sometimes featuring different characters who have inextricable connections with what happens in the present, which are not immediately evident. In a similar way to how multiple POVs allow you to see the story through different eyes, dual timelines give them a whole new, broader context.
Here are some of my favourites:
The Muse by Jessie Burton
My favourite thing about the dual timelines in The Muse was that they both felt extremely unique. They were both part of the same compelling mystery, but the settings and atmosphere they possessed could not have been more different.
We have 1960s London and rural Spain during the Civil War in the 1930s, and both were captured vividly in a wide-ranging story. It was a brilliant read from start to finish.
The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
This is a book that follows the journey of three different characters who take very separate paths, with two of them in the present day and the other a reflective account which begins in the 1980s. It is a fascinating read and the dual timelines are so effective in making you try to piece the puzzle of the story together.
The past timeline was the darkest and most compelling, but the way it was told made it dovetail so well with the present, and as a result the book was difficult to put down.
Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
This simply had to go on my list because it is one of the best books I have read, period. The two timelines here are set – at least initially – in the early 1950s and the late 1960s, following the life of the protagonist, Kya Clark.
The earlier timeline is very much about Kya and her journey, along with all the interactions she has with the marshes where she lives. In contrast, the later timeline surrounds a mysterious death and the police investigation, in which Kya becomes a suspect.
Although the timelines are not the first thing that makes Crawdads such a magical read, they definitely bring a huge amount to the story and elevate the sense of intrigue to a remarkable level.
How To Be Brave by Louise Beech
I found this book very moving, the kind of thing that starts off with a lot of promise and then gradually builds to become something totally profound. The fact that it does so is largely down to the dual timelines and how they compliment one another.
It is about the power of storytelling, in which a young girl suffering from diabetes finds solace in her grandfather and his amazing tale of survival during the Second World War. What makes it even more standout is the fact that it is based on the author’s own familial experiences.
The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa
This was another really emotional read and the dual timelines here were really effective in making me invest so heavily in the story. It may seem a very whimsical book at times with its fair share of light-hearted moments, but at its heart is a bittersweet mixture of beauty and tragedy.
The past timeline here follows the character of Satoru, who is a wonderful person. The events we witness here really strengthens the impact of what happens at the end of the book.
What are some of your favourite books with dual timelines? Do you enjoy reading books with dual timelines? Let me know in the comments!