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8 Engrossing Books With Multiple Timelines

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A novel that follows one protagonist over a lifetime can be equally revealing

When a book has multiple timelines, though, it can immediately contrast historical periods or show how trauma

In May 2022, Neha Patel noted that a nonlinear structure allows authors to explore recurring themes and motifs

In a book with multiple timelines, discrepancies between characters’ points of view become obvious in ways that

The choice to tell such a beloved, linear story in a non-linear way was controversial

Because I know what’s going to happen, I focus on how and why it happens, or

Some of the books below follow two or more distinct timelines, while some jump back and forth

All have narrative structures carefully matched to their themes and character development

In 2011, near the start of the Syrian civil war, Nour and her family move back to Syria

She also tells her siblings, in third person past, the story of Rawiya, a Syrian mapmaker from

The setting and tense make it instantly clear which timeline we’re in, and the differences and

To escape a mundane life in her 18th century French village, Addie makes a deal with a

Because Addie is over 300 years old and doesn’t age, the book has two timelines: one in

The innovative structure of this fantasy novel kept me wanting to find out how much Addie had

It was fascinating to read a book with split timelines centuries apart in the same protagonist’s

It also switches between Noor, Misbah, and Misbah’s son Sal’s perspectives

Tahir’s popular Ember in the Ashes Quartet also navigates multiple characters’ POVs skillfully

This historical novel fictionalizes the short life of Lucrezia de’ Medici, Duchess of Ferrara, who was married

Soon after her death, speculation began that her husband had ordered her murder

The novel begins with a harrowing description of Lucrezia’s intuition that her husband intends to kill

This creates narrative tension as the timelines converge on Lucrezia’s wedding and death

The events of the novel seem inevitable, but I still hoped it would somehow end differently

The portrait of Lucrezia also inspired the classic poem “My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning

Her brother developed a substance use disorder after a sports injury, and their mother had long periods

Gifty is always trying to figure out what she believes and why

With its themes of immigration, racism, and faith, it makes sense that the narrative goes back and

and from Gifty’s childhood journals to her graduate experiments

This novel has many Gothic tropes, such as mysterious, decrepit estates and family secrets

It’s also a book about the process of writing: remembering and imagining, and the unique structure

This fantasy novella, which won a 2021 Hugo Award, weaves together several narrative strands to convey the Empress’

After the Empress dies, a cleric meets the Empress’s former servant and friend, who tells them

Morrison’s first novel is narrated by Pecola Breedlove, a young, Black girl in 1940s Ohio, and

These traumas can shape a person’s sense of self in conscious and unconscious ways, as Pecola’

Flashbacks show how racism impacted Pecola’s parents’ lives

Discover these YA Books with unconventional narrative structures