Sigrid, Heinz, and Werner are complex characters caught up in the events of history, and their stories—told in alternating chapters of past and present—resonate and intrigue as the novel builds to its satisfying final revelations. Readers expecting a page-turner, however, should know that Cayzer’s interest is often more in the sweep of time and history than swift commercial storytelling, with Sepia offering passages of historical facts and detailed summaries of the characters’ lives and cultural interests. Unexpected leaps into the heads of minor characters and a tendency toward grand musings on the part of an omniscient narrator (“…the primeval nature of the species took its natural, ecstatic and climactic course”) also diminish the narrative urgency.
Cayzer proves attentive to the horrors of the Nazi regime but also to the pleasures and pain of life afterwards, as her characters face the past and each other. Dialogue scenes are intimate, revealing, and often witty as the novel immerses readers in these lives and takes the measure of time, trauma, loss, and all that’s worth holding on to. Sprinkled throughout the pages are pencil sketches of characters and settings that add charm.
Takeaway: This historical novel charts three extraordinary lives from 1940s Germany to 21st century Australia.
Great for fans of: Kelly Rimmer, Alexander Starritt.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B