Witch in Time by Constance Sayers
Piatkus, pb, £7.49
Reviewed by Mikaela Silk
In trying to save her daughter from ruin a well-meaning mother accidentally curses her instead, binding her for four lifetimes to a doomed relationship cycle with different reincarnations, the man who ruined her. Juliette and Marchant in 1890’s France, Nora and Billy in 1930’s Los Angeles, Sandra and Rick in 1970’s Los Angeles, and Helen and Roger in 2012 New York. Each reincarnation they are slightly different, and their relationship is slightly different, but the eventual mutual destruction is inevitable. The only person who stays the same, except for his increasingly modernised wardrobe, is the dashingly handsome demon administrator of the curse, Lucian Varnier, who is himself cursed to watch the woman he loves makes the same mistakes with the same wrong man lifetime after lifetime. Helen could finally be the one to break the cycle, but the price for her freedom is high.
With each lifetime, the main character’s magic grows in strength. Whilst these elements were woven deftly into the narrative and added an interesting depth to the magical background of the plot, I didn’t actually think they were hugely necessary. I felt so connected to the characters and their journeys that the physical magic was almost distracting, and I feel that the story would have been just as illuminating without it. Its inclusion didn’t ruin anything, but I don’t feel that it added a great deal either.
The best part of this book is the vivid characterisation as Sayers depicts the four separate lives of her main characters. From the vivid descriptions of rural France and 19th century Paris, to the lively bustle of Hollywood through the ages and the stark contrast of modern high life in New York; from the timid boldness of Juliette to the brash confidence of Nora and Sandra and the uncertain determination of Helen. I fell in love with each of these characters and their lives, dreading the inevitable and yet also feeling a strange excitement as they morphed once again into something new and equally as intimate. The way in which each woman slowly takes on aspects of her past selves is as mesmerising as her unfolding memories and the gradual unravelling of the truth.
Having reached the end of this novel quickly, I almost feel cheated that there were only four lifetimes to experience! However, the abrupt and surprising ending wraps up the narrative in a satisfactory way, the raw emotions of the moment and the sudden shock echoing the similar themes which are threaded throughout. It ends effectively with a hovering question and a sense of wistful possibility.