I've always been a fan of books with dual narratives, books that are actually a book within a book, and definitely books with dual timelines. There's something super intriguing about picking up a read that will take me from one character's perspective to another, from one century to another, even from one world to another — in many ways it's like every biblophile's biggest dream to dive into a book that contains as much narrative, characterization and plot as possible. I'm particularly drawn to books with two timelines, whether they dive into past versus present or reality versus fantasy, or some combination of the two. If that sounds like something you also want to pick up this fall, I've got 13 recommendations for you below.
All of these are books published in 2018 (maybe something about losing yourself in the past might be appealing this year...) and all of them feature plots that employ the dual timeline. Some are romantic historical fiction, some are contemporary, and still others are fantasy and even creepy thrillers. But they're all equally intriguing takes on the trope, whether they make you think about the realities of times gone by, the lasting consequences of roads not taken, or just make you wish you could time-travel as easily as flipping the page yourself.
'The Clockmaker's Daughter' by Kate Morton (Oct. 9)
In 1862, a group of young artists led by Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. By the time their stay is over, one woman has been killed and another has disappeared, a priceless heirloom is missing, and Radcliffe’s life is in ruins. Over 150 years later, Elodie Winslow uncovers a leather satchel that draws her into the mysteries of Birchwood Manor.
'Pulp' by Robin Talley (Nov. 13)
In 1955, 18-year-old Janet Jones keeps the love she shares with her best friend Marie a secret. But when Janet discovers a series of books about women falling in love with other women, it awakens something in her. Sixty-two years later, Abby Zimet loves reading classic lesbian pulp fiction. She feels especially connected to the author “Marian Love,” and becomes determined to track her down and discover her true identity.
'The Great Believers' by Rebecca Makkai
In 1985, Yale Tishman, development director for an art gallery in Chicago, sees his career flourish in the midst of the AIDS epidemic. Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris tracking down her estranged daughter. While staying with an old friend — a photographer who documented the Chicago crisis — she finally grapples with the devastating ways AIDS affected her life.
'Boardwalk Summer' by Meredith Jaeger
In the summer of 1940, Violet Harcourt is crowned Miss Bathing Beauty in her hometown of Santa Cruz, and she’s determined to see herself on the silver screen. But her ambition comes with a price, forcing her to make a shocking choice. In 2007 Marisol Cruz discovers her grandfather’s connection to a beauty queen who died too young and embarks on a journey that uncovers his lifelong secret.
'Furyborn' by Claire LeGrand
After her powers are exposed, Rielle Dardenne must prove she is the Sun Queen through seven deadly trials. A thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is fairy tale to Eliana Ferracora. But she soon discovers that the evil at the heart of the empire is more terrible than she ever imagined. And as their stories intersect, the connections between them may determine the fate of their world.
'The Masterpiece' by Fiona Davis
In 1928, 25-year-old Clara is teaching at the lauded Grand Central School of Art. But she has no idea that she'll soon be blindsided by the Great Depression. In 1974, the terminal is full of grime and crime. But when Virginia Clay stumbles upon an abandoned art school, she embarks on a quest to save Grand Central and solve the mystery of Clara Darden, the famed illustrator who disappeared in 1931.
'The Broken Girls' by Simone St. James
Vermont, 1950. Idlewild is the place for girls no one wants, and one of them has just mysteriously disappears. Vermont, 2014. Journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop thinking about her older sister's death. When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations links the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden.
'Next Year in Havana' by Chanel Cleeton
It's Havana in 1958 and 19-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba's high society, where she is sheltered from the country's political unrest — until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a revolutionary. Havana, 2017. Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing stories of her late grandmother Elisa, and when she arrives in Havana, she uncovers more family history and finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own.
'The Chalk Man' by C.J. Tudor
It began back in 1986, when 12-year-old Eddie met Mr Halloran — the Chalk Man. He gives Eddie the idea for the drawings as a way to leave secret messages for his friends and it was fun, until the chalk men led them to a body. Thirty years later, Ed believes the past is far behind him, until an envelope slips through the letterbox. It contains a stick of chalk, and a drawing of a figure.
'The Love Letter' by Rachel Hauck
With the colonies at war, Hamilton Lightfoot and Esther Longfellow must choose sides: Britain or America? Their love for each other, or for their families? In the modern day, Jesse Gates writes and sells a screenplay based on his life. When Jesse meets Chloe Daschle, the actress set to play Esther Longfellow — his grandfather’s one true love — the stories of all four collide.
'Love and Other Words' by Christina Lauren
Macy Sorensen is settling into an ambitious if emotionally tepid routine: work hard as a new pediatrics resident, plan her wedding, keep her head down. But when she runs into Elliot Petropoulos — the first and only love of her life — the careful bubble she’s constructed begins to dissolve. Told in alternating timelines between Then and Now, Elliot and Macy grapple with the truth of their complicated decades-long connection.
'The Last Time I Lied' by Riley Sager
The last time Emma — or anyone — saw her Camp Nightingale friends Vivian, Natalie, and Allison was just before they all disappeared. Now, Emma turns her past into paintings — which catch the eye of the owner of Camp Nightingale. When Emma to returns to the camp as a painting instructor, Emma tries to find out what really happened all those years ago.
'The Summer List' by Amy Mason Doan
Laura and Casey were once inseparable, teaming up for wild scavenger hunts in their small California lakeside town. Until a shocking betrayal broke them apart. But the past is impossible to escape, and now, after 17 years away, Laura is pulled home and into a reunion with Casey she can’t resist — one last scavenger hunt.