Posted on Leave a comment

The First Bright Thing, by J. R. Dawson

Review copy provided by the publisher. Also the author is an internet pal.

Sometimes there’s a pitch line for a book that doesn’t match the book in question. This is definitely not one of those times, because the pitch is: “queer magical circus performers from 1926 time travel in an attempt to stop the horrors of the Second World War.” Did you read that and go “oooOOOooh”? Great, you’re the audience, because that’s exactly what The First Bright Thing does. Did you think “not my bag”? Probably not the audience, move along with all goodwill to the next thing.

What else do I want to say about this book: I really liked its representation of a Jewish protagonist who is not what the Gentile world would imagine religious observance looks like, whose Judaism is important to her and is a major tool for how she understands the world around her–in exactly the way it is in life, to varying degrees for varying people.

I also liked the way that the mistakes the characters made about the coming war were very much the mistakes of not knowing what was coming. It’s hard to put oneself in the mindset of someone who doesn’t know exactly what the “big bad thing coming in 10-15 years” is from 1926, but these are not people who are attempting to assassinate Hitler because they have never heard of him. So their attempts to fix the horrors of the Second World War are very much colored by their own fairly recent experiences of the First one, not by our knowledge of what’s to come.

I think I should probably give a content warning: there are people coming out of multiple kinds of abusive relationship here and trying to straighten out their own minds on the wrong things they learned therein. This is well enough done that it will probably be powerful and empowering for some readers who have been there…but others will still be too close. Judge accordingly where you are in this, friends.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *