Review: In Another Time by Jillian Cantor

by Heather Caliendo

Editorial note: I received a copy of In Another Time in exchange for a review. 

In Another Time by Jillian Cantor is a moving historical fiction novel about a love that transcends time.

This WWII-era story unfolds through decades and across continents, in alternating viewpoints. After a prologue from the late ’50s, we then jump back to 1931 Germany where we meet bookshop owner Max Beissinger. Upon hearing Hanna Ginsberg play the violin, he’s instantly enchanted. Their love affair unfolds over the next five years while the climate drastically changes in Germany as Hitler comes to power. Hanna is Jewish and Max is not and the country is forcing them to become star-crossed lovers of sorts. However, Max also has a secret, one he believes will save Hanna if Germany becomes too dangerous.

Flash forward to 1946, and Hanna wakes up in a field outside of Berlin. She has no memory of the past 10 years and no idea what happened to Max. Without any information of where he is, she throws herself into her music and pursues her lifelong dream of becoming a concert violinist. However, she remains haunted by her forgotten past, and the fate of Max.

Dual timelines

The story follows Max in the years leading up to WWII and Hanna in the 10 years after. I love the dual timeline style for historical fiction! And it especially works for this novel as there are plenty of mysteries. The biggest are what happened to Hanna in those 10 years and where is Max? But there’s also Max’s big secret, what exactly is he hiding from the world? All is slowly revealed in really fascinating ways. I definitely was surprised at some of the developments.

Historical fiction, with a twist

I love WWII-era fiction and this one especially also caught my eye due to the glimpse of life pre-war Berlin. The historical details are so vivid and it really showed how Germany changed. An aspect that stuck out of the novel is Max sensing where the country is going and tries to pursue Hanna to leave. But she doesn’t see a need as Germany is still her country. It really rings true to how people had no idea of how bad it would get— how could they have predicted that a slow rhetoric would become louder and eventually turn into horrible actions? There’s plenty of lessons we all can learn from what happened there.

One of my favorite aspects of the novel is Hanna’s passion for music. Many times she realizes that her faithful companion in life really is her violin. She also is determined that her gender and religion will not serve as a roadblock to her dreams. And Max is equally devoted to books. Book and music lovers will enjoy all those beautiful details.

Without giving away spoilers, there is a sci-fi component to the story. It doesn’t overpower the narrative and it’s unique and quite interesting. I did not expect it going into the novel but now I can see how the title really presents that aspect. It serves the story quite well and does add an additional emotional layer.

I so enjoyed this novel about love and loss, passion and kindness plus music and books. At its heart, is the power of hope and the human spirit.

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