I like the concept behind Is It Her? (US) Two fine writers interpreting the art work of the cover to produce a pair of novellas that complement each other in terms when read together.
There are similarities, as you might expect. Each has a wartime theme and each deals with a reunification of sorts after the world has been ripped apart by violence.
The opener, by Jonathan Hill is a taught, tense piece that explores the lives of four people whose lives are interlinked as they sit playing cards. Two of the men are going off to fight the next day. The situation brings out issues for everyone as they try to come to terms with what’s about to happen. The emotional weight of it bears down on them all and soon the cracks in their world begin to appear and then to widen.
This story has the feel of an edgy piece of theatre to it. The confines of the setting and the sharply drawn lines kept me in mind of a play where the claustrophobia is palpable and the tale is told as much through the actions of the characters as their words.
Kath Middleton paints with broader brushes. Her story is told in two parts, each from the perspective of pre-war sweethearts as they struggle with the events that wartime brings. The arc of each story is huge and Middleton has done a good job of condensing the tale into a novella. There are tasters of what it was like to live through a war from the battlegrounds of the air and on the home-front and neither side had it easy.
Each piece works perfectly well in its own right. The fact that they come together adds value to each and I reckon there’s more mileage in projects such as this for these authors in the future.