They meet when Amanda saves Mark’s life from a derailing train in the city. Among the debris and the chaos of the disaster, they experience a strange feeling that they have met before. An antique clock Amanda is inexplicably drawn to motivates the couple to investigate what they suspect are past life memories of their relationship during the late 19th century. During her past life regressions, Amanda relives episodes from her previous life as Bonnie, a girl who endured a traumatic escape from the American Civil War-ravaged South before finally settling in Chicago.
Reincarnation is definitely an interesting theme to encounter in a work of fiction because theories and beliefs about it are normally found in serious esoteric texts. Samyann’s fascination with reincarnation and cyclical time is apparent in the novel, and I enjoyed her use of symbols to keep the narrative tied to the theme: her symbols range from the literal grandfather clock to the arcane ones she leaves for the reader to discover. The author’s research is impeccable (the author’s note at the end was a nice touch). Samyann knows her setting and it shows in her writing. Her Chicago is not a backdrop but a living world. The transitions between past and present and vice versa were smooth and well-timed. The past-life segments of the narrative integrated historical facts and fiction seamlessly and I read them with interest – the author has the imaginative flair needed to breathe life into historical accounts. The inclusion of history lent weight to the story as a whole and not only as a support for the reincarnation theme. I would have liked to read more from the 19th-century perspective, but this wish of mine is simply a reflection of how well the author handled the narrative from Bonnie’s point of view. Yesterday is elegantly written.
What concerned me is that the characters are worryingly classifiable into stereotypes. Despite the twist – Amanda’s act of heroism in the beginning of the novel – the characterisation remains a tad flat throughout the rest of the story. Something else that bothered me about the character web is that the other characters cater to her to an unrealistic degree. The romantic development between Mark and Amanda was quite syrupy and slowed the narrative down – despite the excellent aspects of the novel, it was a very slow read for me because of this. Amanda is too perfect for me to identify or empathise with.
I rate Yesterday 3 out of 4. The novel is redeemed by the quality of the writing and the integration of historical events into the narrative – if I were to recommend it to anyone, it would be to enjoy the writing. I can’t give it a 4 because the characterisation detracted too much and the romance genre as a medium limits the visionary or philosophical scope of the reincarnation concept.