Readers entranced by the idea of reincarnation, or recurring lives, will find this novel an interesting read. For the average reader, however, the lack of traditional story structure may be too much to ensure they will enjoy this book. Also, the scenes of ritual human sacrifice, while not explicitly graphic, might turn off readers before they get hooked into the story. However, what else could be expected from a book that gets its title and plot from the famous painting by Carl Larsson, Midvinterblot. A title translated from Swedish that means midwinter sacrifice.
Readers might also be distressed by the transition of the relationships between Merle and Eric throughout their many lives. Merle and Eric are not only lovers throughout some of the seven chapters, they also show up as an elderly person and child, parent and child, siblings, and people of the same gender. Although not all of the relationships are romantic in nature, the shifting nature of the characters’ relationship may make some readers uncomfortable. This reader found the changes between Merle and Eric’s relationship a testament to the many different types of love, a theme which emerges in the story.
For readers interested in different historical time periods, Midwinter Blood may be a great choice. Sedgwick explores the World War II, Victorian, mid 19th century, 10th century, and even the current time period as the backdrop to Merle and Eric’s unending romance. True, the author does not delve too deeply into the concerns of those time periods which makes some of the chapters fall flat. Some chapters immerse readers in their detail regarding the time period, however, others, such as the chapter in the Victorian era, leave much to be desired. It felt to this reader as if some of the events from these chapters could have happened in any time period leaving the question if the separate time periods were really necessary to convey the theme of the story at all.
It is clear that the author was not as concerned in accurately depicting the time periods used in Midwinter Blood as crafting the connections between Merle and Eric from one life to the next. But given that the author spent little time building the relationship between Merle and Eric in the first section, it was hard for this reader to root for them to end up together. The entirety of the story and their relationship felt removed, as if I was reading a folktale rather than a novel. Although I do not think it was on purpose, the folklore element works in the author’s favor as it lends the novel an air of timelessness which the author follows through with in the concluding chapters. Considering these negatives, readers may not persevere through to the end of the novel. However, this reader believes Midwinter Blood is worthy read for those who enjoy artistic storytelling.
Does it have a Young Adult Label?: No.
Recommended if you like: Reincarnation, Romance, historically based plots, changing relationships, Orchids, Sacrifice, Folklore, Books based on paintings, Descriptive Settings
Favorite Quote: “He wonders if a few moments of utter and total joy can be worth a life time of struggle. Maybe, he thinks. Maybe, if they’re the right moments.”