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I didn't write this book. I stole it...

A Parisian bookbinder stumbles across a manuscript containing three stories, each as unlikely as the other.

The first, 'The Education of a Monster', is a letter penned by the poet Charles Baudelaire to an illiterate girl. The second, 'City of Ghosts', is a noir romance set in Paris in 1940 as the Germans are invading. The third, 'Tales of the Albatross', is the strangest of the three: the autobiography of a deathless enchantress. Together, they tell the tale of two lost souls peregrinating through time.

An unforgettable tour de force with echoes of Roberto Bolaño, David Mitchell and Umberto Eco, Crossings is a novel in three parts, designed to be read in two different directions, spanning a hundred and fifty years and seven lifetimes.


©2020 Alex Landragin (P)2020 Macmillan Audio

Audible Audio

First published July 28, 2020

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About the author

Alex Landragin

2 books141 followers
Alex Landragin is a French-Armenian-Australian writer. Currently based in Melbourne, Australia, he has also resided in Paris, Marseille, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Charlottesville. He has previously worked as a librarian, an indigenous community worker, and an author of Lonely Planet travel guides in Australia, Europe and Africa. Alex holds an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Melbourne and occasionally performs early jazz piano under the moniker Tenderloin Stomp. Crossings is his debut novel.

Photo credit: Helga Salwe
Alex Landragin | Macmillian Publishers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,439 reviews
Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
July 28, 2020

once upon a time, i read Hopscotch, cortazar’s fan-favoritiest novel, and i did it aaaaalllll wrong. i misunderstood the rules and thought i was supposed to read the whole novel like a regular book and then go back and reread it using the page-order laid out in the “Table of Instructions” to “hopscotch” back through the story, and i don’t know what i thought would be revealed by this double-dip method, but it’s what i did and BOY, was i pissed to discover it was meant to be an either/or situation, not a “read this 600 page book twice, sucka!!”

so, if any of YOU are dum dums the way i was am a dum dum, let me clarify that THIS book offers the same reading options: you can either read it from page 1-472 (that’s the ARC page-count—if it’s longer in the finished book, don’t stop at page 472!), OR you can follow the Baroness sequence, which will usher you back and forth through the guts of the book, alternating between the three separate-but-connected storylines which is what i did.

i haven’t read it the other way; the conventional way, and that may also be a perfectly satisfying read, but you can read plenty of other books that way, most of them, in fact! very few books can be read as a backy-forthy journey, so when those opportunities arise, i say “take ‘em!”

this one reminded me of Cloud Atlas and The Mirror Thief, all of them time-jumping, multiple POV-having, samefolk-appearing fantasy adventures with a little of this and a little of that, genre-wise: romance and mystery and true historical events and personages* wrapped in an intriguing puzzle box guiding the reader through discrete storylines peppered with recurring motifs, but this is the only one of the three that you can read without knowing how many pages you have left before it’s over! it’s like chutes and ladders—the book; sometimes it’ll make you look like the fastest reader ever, sometimes it’ll look like you’ve been reading for hours and are only fifty pages in. it’s exercise and an adventure you can take without leaving your house!

this is a wonderful chonk of a book, and even though it is primarily a love story with other stuff stuck to it, and i do not give a fig about love stories, i liked this one.

i wanted to write a better review for this book but then the world got terrible and now my brain is bad. read the book and then write a better review than this.

* which is true of this one and The Mirror Thief, but maybe not Cloud Atlas? i’m leaning towards “no,” but it’s been a long time since i read it, so no yelling if i am mistaken!

come to my blog!
Profile Image for s.penkevich.
965 reviews6,839 followers
October 9, 2020
Will I see you again only in eternity?

Souls traveling across time and space yearning for the other is always a good emotional nail to hang a novel upon. While it has been done before, Alex Landragin breathes new life into the conceit with his well-plotted puzzlebox of a debut novel Crossings. The novel, which tells the tale of entities that make ‘crossings’ between bodies with other’s consciousness (to tell any more would give too much away), plays with other notions of crossings both thematically and structurally. Similar to the threaded narrative in Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar, Crossings invites you to weave the three separate manuscripts that make up this book by following a special order. You can, if you will, choose to read it in a traditional manner or follow the page directions at the end of each chapter as if it were a guided choose-your-own adventure. While a bit of a gimmick, the trick emphasizes the crossings theme as the reader transfers back and forth between character consciousness, carrying multiple lives in their head at once as you ‘let the stories be your guide’. A charming adventure through time, Crossings looks at philosophical concerns of the soul, identity and the consequences and ethics of our actions in a fun-filled puzzle of a novel that is sure to delight.

Crossings fits into a niche category along with authors such as David Mitchell that I like to term as ‘Literary Pulp’. Similar to Cloud Atlas with both books presenting multiple narrators over centuries and an innovative structure while also looking at themes of colonialism and the soul, Crossings scratches a similar itch of toying with more pulp-like narratives in a literary way by being stylized for a larger purpose. The second manuscript, for example, is a noir-romance thriller complete with sketchy nightclub meetings, detectives with uncertain motives and shadowy puppetmasters seemingly controlling the events. While unfortunately a bit light on the Literary aspects--shoehorning in literary authors as characters to give it more of a feel of literary weight than in actuality--it still seems a good general term. This book is unbelievably fun, well constructed and successfully pulls off its tricks. For a debut novel especially, Landragin is quite impressive here even if the end is a bit tidier than necessary.

The Hopscotch narrative style is rather enjoyable and adds texture to the many variations on the theme of ‘crossings’ that comprise the novel and also gives the reader a sense of embodying the disorienting lives the characters play out. Not only is this a story about a ‘soul’ of sorts crossing bodies and the consequences of the act, but also the consequences of nations crossing oceans, or also people crossing borders. The second manuscript, purportedly written by Walter Benjamin in context of the novel, deals with the final days of Benjamin’s life during which he really did attempt a failed crossing out of France during the Nazi occupation. This manuscript takes on real events and fills in details to make it work for the purpose of the novel, which is quite entertaining. ‘A border is nothing but a fiction--only one that holds the power of life and death over countless people,’ Benjamin writes, a wink at the purpose of framing this section around his border crossing and how the many forms of crossings are inevitably a game of life and death.

Early in the third section--the bulk of the novel is the third section weaved throughout a rotating interplay between the first two--we find an indigenous tribe visited by French fur traders who have crossed the ocean in search of commerce. The consequences of their contact with the tribe reverberate throughout the entire novel and set the chain of events in motion. A century later we find this planted the seed of colonial imperialism and the island soon falls under French jurisdiction with a puppet King pantomiming tribal autonomy while being a port for the French empire as the secrets of the indigenous are forgotten when they trade their gods for guns.

The ethical value of one's actions depends on their anticipated and predictable consequences,’ wrote linguist and political theorist Noam Chomsky. Any crossing that occurs in the novel is not without consequences and is laden with ethical conundrums. The primary character of the novel must often make a crossing in order to survive, but to do so is to quite literally steal a body and displace their ‘being’ into the flesh they are discarding. This often means death or, in one particularly dark moment, stealing from a youthful innocent to trap her in an aged, toothless, and monstrous form. The primary character puts their own needs first and although in later crossings they attempt to find a more ethical method of selection, they are certainly not above reproach. They know the crossings mean suffering for others, but they do so anyways and there is a chilling nihilism in this tale of body snatching that makes it a perfect read for the October spooky season. Their initial crossing also sets up a chain of events that leads to a villainous entity that gouges out the eyes of their victims and they must accept that they have created a monster. The two of them chase each other from body to body, leaving a trail of death which feels slightly akin to Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed. However, Crossings is a love story at heart. Beneath the body snatching and murder, this is the story of one lover desperately searching their lost lover across centuries.

With all these body snatching, the notions of identity become quite blurred. Which, unfortunately, is where the book seems to miss major opportunities. While the separate manuscripts have a distinguishing voice in the first two, the third falls fairly flat despite a few anachronisms and flair. While there is some decent commentary on how socially-enforced gender rolls grant different bodies different opportunities, its more casual detail than thematic. Though this isn’t necessarily a complaint, as I’d rather it not be addressed than addressed poorly, but does seem a missed opportunity. There could have been very trans affirming moments (and, potentially a look at race) that just don’t happen, and while I won’t disparage a book for not meeting my specific requests the lack of commentary does leave a noticeable void. What does work quite well, however, is that Landragin does use this as an excellent opportunity to discuss class hierarchy and other social aspects of the body like physical attributes.
‘Character is destiny, according to Shakespeare. And yet our bodies, above all our faces, are so bound up with how others perceive us, one might say that, especially for a woman, they are just as powerful an influence over our destinies. Our faces influence the perceptions others hold of us, and those perceptions influence, in turn, our character.’

The principal character often swaps bodies for one that will grant them more freedom to travel, including financial freedom. There is an interesting interplay between physical features and finance in the character of Edmunde de Bressy, a young woman with a face so disfigured by fire that she must wear a veil at all times. Despite her appearances, her vast fortune makes her the most mobile and powerful body, an excellent commentary on how capital overrides all else in society.

The issue of body crossing does bring up the question of a soul, even if it is malleable and takes on the personality of the bodies in which it is transferred. ‘I didn’t say I believe in an afterlife,’ the character Artopoulos says late in the novel as the principal character begins to wonder if they are their adversary, ‘I believe in the existence of the soul, which is quite a different matter.’ This may, for the willing, explain an authorial decision to not differentiate the voices of our principal character much since they are a constant entity regardless of affectations of form. The issue of immortality plays out as expected, though not to any detriment, as a singular being must watch centuries pass and grasp at any meaning or purpose in life.

An interesting authorial decision in the novel is to use historical figures as main characters. Which is fun, though underutilized. For example, a key point in the novel is that Walter Benjamin visits the grave of Charles Baudelaire because he is an ‘admirer’. However, there is no real emphasis on Benjamin having been a translator of Baudelaire or how it could have worked into the novel that he had felt a strange affinity for his work because in the novel he is quite literally Baudelaire in a different body years later and doesn’t know it. It was something I waited for and was surprised it didn't occur. Having Coco Chanel be a villain was sort of fun though, leaning into her Nazi spy history. However, the attributes of historical figures felt underused and mostly for convenient name checks such as giving an in-novel backstory to Baudelaire’s relationship with Jeanne Duval and I wonder if the novel would have worked just as well, or even better, had Landragin used entirely fictional characters. It is still really fun, just seems like there was more potential than effect.

The potential to effect ratio does underserve the novel, which at worst is still a really delightful good time. Particularly for a debut novel that relies heavily on conceit, this novel shines in readability and entertainment where it seems unnecessarily critical to call the tricks a gimmick. It helps, too, that Landragin really sticks the landing and the book wraps up wonderfully. It even teases that you, the reader, might be a player in its great mystery. Crossings is well written, very well plotted and hits so many sweet spots that the shortcomings are easy to gloss over. I personally enjoyed the rather sinister attitudes of the main crosser when it came to ethics, it made the book feel grimy in a fun way. While it falls short of Cloud Atlas, this is an excellent choice for fans of David Mitchell--which is particularly amusing as it was released in close proximity to Mitchell’s newest novel and feels more in-cannon and successfully worked than Mitchell’s own novel. A ghost story, a noir, a romance and a anti-colonialist epic, Crossings is an impressive debut that outshines its flaws.

added your story to the book of legends that they carried around in the libraries of their mind
Profile Image for Valentina Ghetti.
175 reviews1,787 followers
August 30, 2021
Immaginate di essere un rilegatore con una bottega e una famiglia da mantenere. Immaginate di ricevere l'accorata richiesta di una vostra ricca amica bibliofila: rilegare tre racconti composti da tre mani diverse, uniti da un filo sottile, invisibile a chiunque se non alla mecenate stessa.
Immaginate di accettare l'unica condizione: non leggere per nessun motivo i tre racconti.
Immaginate, ora, che la vostra cliente venga trovata morta in circostanze misteriosissime, probabilmente uccisa da qualcuno sulle tracce del manoscritto che voi conservate nella vostra bottega.
Cosa fareste?
Il nostro tipografo decide di disfarsi del manoscritto, dopo averlo letto, nel modo più semplice che conosce: pubblicandolo.
Tra le mani del lettore arriva dunque "Storia di due anime", una pubblicazione particolarissima, che fonde la meta-letteratura con la narrativa sperimentale (sempre più apprezzata negli ultimi anni); infatti il libro può essere letto o nella maniera più classica (dall'inizio alla fine) o saltando tra le pagine, secondo l'ordine consigliato dalla Baronessa, la donna misteriosa che, prima di essere assassinata, ha commissionato il libro al tipografo.

Raramente ho trovato un romanzo di narrativa sperimentale sviluppato così bene, molti partono da un'idea geniale per poi svilupparla in modo pressoché incomprensibile al lettore (La nave di Teseo *coff coff*), invece, in questo caso, ho trovato una trama tanto geniale quanto comprensibile e senza buchi.

Consiglio assolutamente di seguire l'ordine "non convenzionale" della Baronessa (saltando tra i capitoli) perché, oltre a essere molto affascinante e suggestivo, porta a una comprensione immediata dei meccanismi che muovono l'agire dei personaggi.
Lo stile di scrittura è poetico e delicato, come d'altronde lo è la storia narrata.
A parer mio un libro imperdibile per gli amanti della narrativa sperimentale e delle storie d'amore impossibili.
Profile Image for Dez the Bookworm.
268 reviews113 followers
March 13, 2023

What can I say, I have a thing for choosing books by their front cover and notable descriptors of what’s inside. A fun little gamble when I’m not sure what next to try…

I’m glad I liked the cover, because this book was a delightful surprise. I loved the three storylines (although I wasn’t sure I would initially). Each section, which effortlessly collided with the next, enthralled me and left me even more intrigued than reading the section prior. It uniquely ties the storyline together, revealing just enough to keep you eagerly wanting to read so as to discover the mystery within. How does it all tie together?! The sprinkling of clues allows your mind to deduce its own conclusions, all while not fully allowing you to be sure of the “truth” as it exists in the novel.

I wasn’t at all disappointed in my gamble.
Profile Image for Fran.
661 reviews632 followers
May 29, 2020
"Rare books can bring out the worst in people".

The Baroness had an impressive private library of material pertaining to Charles Baudelaire. She asked an acclaimed bookbinder "to bind a looseleaf manuscript-no constraints of time or money-a priceless manuscript...one condition...I was not to read its contents". The Baroness was later found murdered, her eyes gouged out. "Could the murder of the Baroness be connected somehow with the manuscript now lying in my safety deposit box?" I was now free to devour the time-worn, rabbit-eared document containing three stories, handwritten in French: "The Education of a Monster", "City of Ghosts", and "Tales of the Albatross". How does one read this document? The manuscript can be read in order, from beginning to end, or, the Baroness Sequence could be followed, zigzagging by way of a jumble of numbers scribbled on the first page. This reader chose the adventurous Baroness sequence!

On a Pacific Island in the late 18th Century, the populace obeyed "The Law". It was their prized possession. "The Law's greatest gift was the crossing. To look into the eyes of another, to sense the stirring of one's soul, to be transported into the body of the other and dwell therein until the time came for the return crossing...A crossing is a perilous venture...some crossings fare better than others...The Law says there can be no crossing without a return crossing".

A French trading ship, The Solide, visited the island. The Islanders invited the strangers to a feast. "...we drank in their presence, we studied their strangeness". Koahu, a student of the crossing, performed the Islanders Sacred Dance: The Dance of the Albatross. Koahu, brazen and bold, locked eyes with Roblet, the ship's surgeon, a look with such intensity that a crossing took place. A mistake occurred. Koahu, inhabiting Roblet's body returned to the ship.

Koahu was Alula's beloved. "...so began the years of searching...my pursuit of you became my regimen, my raison d'etre...I am Alula, and I will never abandon you...Upon crossing into a new body, one takes up the course of a new life,...I never stopped seeking out a way to speak with you". Sacrifices for love, attempts to right a grievous wrong, with unintended consequences, unfold over a period of 150 years.

"...eyes are the window to the soul...I ask only that you look into my eyes and stay still. Do not look away. Do not speak...I need only look into your eyes for three or four minutes, and then all will be revealed". Travelling through time, the reader will meet Charles Baudelaire, experience the occupation of Paris in 1940, witness the crime of eye gouging, and the disappearance and resurfacing of a precious manuscript.

"Crossings" by Alex Landragin is a unique and ambitious foray into speculative fiction. It is a well written, complex literary puzzle, a grand adventure!

Thank you St. Martin's Press and Net Galley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Marialyce (on our way to Venice).
2,038 reviews709 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
April 21, 2020
I tried as I got myself up to 30% and when you push aside a book ten times in an hour to check your phone, you know that this one is just not for you!
Profile Image for Krystal.
1,654 reviews383 followers
July 17, 2020
I am more confused than impressed.

And this is an impressive novel. The scope is massive and the ambition is there, and the stories weave through generations and tell a rather epic tale.

Yet it feels unfinished to me.

The idea: A technique known as Crossing allows a person to transfer their soul into another body. It's an exchange that can either be done with both people aware of it, with neither aware, or with one aware while the other remains unaware. The tale of Crossings is broken into three parts - two shorter stories told by someone who is unaware their soul used to reside in another body, and the third tale, The Albatross, which follows seven lifetimes of incarnations.

The story can either be read in the usual format, or following the 'Baroness Sequence', where chapters are read in a specific order. I read it the classic, front-to-back way, but I think perhaps it would read better in the alternative arrangement. The classic way is three separate stories, whereas I feel that, woven together, they may make more sense and flow a little more cohesively.

I really enjoyed the concept, and inhabiting so many bodies was a lot of fun. I enjoyed the mystery of the first and second books, and trying to unravel what was happening, but when the story of The Albatross came it was rather long and almost tedious. I didn't like the way it was separated.

It's an ambitious device and the story itself is rather fascinating, but it does get a little confusing towards the end and the conclusion is far from satisfactory. It started off as a four star read for me, but by the end I wasn't really sure of the point to it all, and was happy to be done with it.

If you're looking at this one, I would recommend reading the Baroness Sequence, as I suspect that is the stronger version of the story. I'll read it that way myself eventually, but for now I'm quite content to walk away from it.
Profile Image for Sarah.
746 reviews132 followers
March 18, 2023
Crossings is a cleverly-constructed historical epic, spanning the 18th, 19th, 20th and (in the prologue) 21st centuries and settings encompassing Western Europe, North America and the South Pacific. My first reading was in the conventional sequence (i.e. starting at page 1 and reading straight to the end). After waiting about a month, I've re-read the book in the alternative "Baroness Sequence" suggested in the prologue.
The brief prologue introduces the book as a mysterious bundle of manuscripts delivered to an elite Paris bookbinder in the present day. The remainder of the book in its conventional form consists of the three manuscripts: the first is a gothic novella entitled "The Education of a Monster", set in mid-1860s Brussels and purportedly written by the French poet and essayist Charles Baudelaire; the second is a memoir of romance and adventure, told from the perpective of German-born philosopher and cultural critic Walter Benjamin and set in Paris in the days leading up to German occupation in 1940; the third a series of interlinked "life stories" of several individuals, ranging in setting from the South Pacific in 1791 to WW2 Paris.
To describe the complex plot succinctly seems a practical impossibility, and would constitute a spoiler for those readers approaching the book in the conventional format, for whom it is a gradually unfolding multi-layered mystery.
The plot, characters and concept behind the book are complex and mind-blowing and while at times the reader might feel somewhat confused as to what is going on, once complete it is a deeply satisfying and thought-provoking read.
My only qualm was the author's use of real people as fictionalised characters, including Charles Baudelaire, Walter Benjamin and Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel. All are long dead, so well beyond the reach of any legal consequences, but I've pondered long and hard over the justness of attributing some fairly serious behaviour to them, particularly in the case of Chanel. Although the renowned couturière is known to have been a ruthless businesswoman, an anti-Semite and (as we now know) a Nazi collaborator, it seems a little unfair to make her also a (fictional) multiple murderess and vicious eye-gouger. I'm not convinced that the quality of the novel would have suffered had these characters instead been represented in the guise of truly fictional creations, or even veiled caricatures.
Alex Landragin is a gifted and imaginative writer, and I look forward to reading his future work. I'd highly recommend Crossings to all readers of imaginative Historical Fiction, afficionados (like myself) of twisty time-travel stories and those seeking simply an immersive and engaging read. My thanks to the author, Alex Landragin, the publisher St Martin's Press and Netgalley for the opportunity to read (twice!) and review this title prior to publication. #Crossings #AlexLandragin #NetGalley

To assist myself in clarifying the character relationships in Crossings, I put together the following flowchart timeline and character map, setting out my own understanding of the sequence of settings and characters represented. It will contain spoilers, for those who are yet to read the book, particularly in the conventional sequence. (The PDF link above is higher definition.).
Crossings Timeline & Character Map
Profile Image for Nicki Markus.
Author 63 books276 followers
June 4, 2019
Crossings was an inventive and captivating read. In the end I decided to read the work in the back-and-forth approach, and I enjoyed seeing how the stories within the three distinct works intertwined. This is a book that would have taken a lot of planning, and, being a pantster myself, I applaud Landragin for that. The characters and situations are interesting, and I particularly appreciated the way historical personages and events wove through the narrative. In the future I would like to reread this work in the traditional manner, to see how that compares. Overall, though, this is a work of great imagination that always keeps you guessing. I would certainly pick up future books by this author.

I received this book as a free ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Faith.
1,900 reviews534 followers
August 12, 2020
“During a crossing, one enters into a body and inherits its capacities and incapacities, its appetites and proclivities. But one also enters into a mind. When I crossed with Feuille, I brought with me all the memories I had accumulated in the course of my previous two lifetimes. I also inherited a corpus of new memories, the memories of this new me, all its pleasures and tribulations, its qualities and flaws.”

This is a book about the transmigration of souls between living people, referred to as “crossing”. It traces multiple characters though their various identities, between 1791 and the 1940s. The primary characters are the young lovers Alula and Koahu from the island of Oaeetee. There transmigrations in 1791 trigger all of the rest of the events in the book. The story is too complicated to attempt to describe in any sort of detail.

The book might get the most attention for its unique structure. It can be read straight through as a series of linked stories about the characters and their crossings. However, there is an alternative way to read the book by following the so-called Baroness Sequence that skips throughout the book to create a complete novel. I thought the book was very entertaining, but it was also a lot of work. I had an ebook ARC plus the audiobook of the final version. I listened to the audiobook, following along in the ARC, and took copious notes. The notes were absolutely necessary because it was confusing to keep track of whose soul was in whose physical body at any time. It was also confusing because some transmigrations erased memories while others retained the memories.

After finishing the straight read, I went back and tried the Baroness Sequence. It was a little challenging because I was not sure that all of the links in the ebook ARC were correct. I couldn’t even attempt it in the audiobook, because the version that I borrowed from the library was not broken into tracks. Ultimately, I did not think this sequence added much to the story other than novelty, although it was very cleverly done and the ending of the sequence was excellent. If you start with the Baroness Sequence, I don’t see how it would be possible to have any idea who the characters are or what they are doing. This was an interesting experiment that I don’t think completely succeeded. I don’t think this will start a trend since it must have been hell to write. 4.5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
Profile Image for luce (that loser crying on the n° 2 bus).
1,438 reviews4,046 followers
August 28, 2021
| | blog | tumblr | ko-fi | |

Alex Landragin has written an ambitious tale, one that begins with the following line: “I didn't write this book. I stole it.”
This prologue, written by a bookbinder, tells us of how this manuscript has come to be in his hands. The manuscript in question comprises three seemingly separate books: 'The Education of a Monster' written and narrated by Charles Baudelaire, 'City of Ghosts' which consists in diary entries from Walter Benjamin, and 'Tales of the Albatross' which follows Alula, who lives on Oaeetee, a remote island in the Pacific.

Crossings can be read in the conventional way or the Baroness way (which gives page particular page numbers one has to jump to at the end of a chapter). I read it the Baroness way, and I believe I made the 'right' choice. The Baroness sequence, unlike the traditional one, intertwines chapters from each section (Alula's, Charles', Benjamin's), making the connection between these three narratives much more clear.
To give more information on the plot (or maybe, I should say, many plots) would risk giving the novel away. I will try to be as vague as possible: the novel will take readers across time and space, combing genres and playing with tone and style.

As much as I enjoyed the labyrinthine and story-within-story structure of this novel, I was ultimately disappointed by its characters and the 'star-crossed lovers' theme that unifies these seemingly disparate narratives. Alula, someone I wanted to root for, commits a particularly heinous act, one that she quickly absolves herself of, reassuring herself that she did what she did 'for the greater good'.
The personality of the two supposed main characters never truly came across. While it made sort of sense, given the conditions they are in, I wanted some more interiority on their part. Additionally, Alula sounded very much like a Western woman. This could be excused away, given the direction that her story takes her in, but her voice still lacked authenticity.
While the author renders in minute detail aspects of the time he writes of, I wonder why he brought two real-life figures into the folds of his story. After all, Baudelaire's work isn't exestively discussed, nor does it actually play a significant role in the story (a Baudelaire society appears now and again but it seemed more a prop than anything else). It seemed that by making Baudelaire and Benjamin into his protagonists the author was trying to spruce up his otherwise boring narrators.
The villain, who comes out with things 'we are not so different you and I', was painfully clichéd and not at all intimidating.
This novel will definitely appeal to fans of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas or even Stuart Turton's The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. A novel that reads like a puzzle, one that combines different styles and genres.
While I did enjoy the adventure-aspect of this novel, and its structure is certainly impressive, I can't say that it left an impression on me.

Profile Image for ☆LaurA☆.
247 reviews74 followers
January 18, 2023
Beh che dire....queste 7 vite di Alula mi hanno fatto viaggiare in epoche e luoghi lontani.

Ci sono 2 modi per leggere questo libro, ma credo che per ora resterò con questa unica lettura, poi, quando questo racconto sarà un vago ricordo, allora potrò affrontarlo diversamente e con altro spirito.

Gli occhi sono una porta per la nostra anima e in questo libro ho trovato dettagli e piccole frasi che mi appartengono.

É stato un bel viaggio o forse un magnifico scambio!!!
Profile Image for Blair.
1,794 reviews4,432 followers
July 28, 2020
The preface frames Crossings as a three-part manuscript in the possession of a Parisian bookbinder. The narrator explains that he came to possess it by way of a collector nicknamed the Baroness, who died – or was murdered – days after delivering it to him. It consists of 'The Education of a Monster', a horror story ostensibly written by Charles Baudelaire; 'City of Ghosts', a noirish tale narrated by Walter Benjamin; and 'Tales of the Albatross', the account of woman named Alula, a 'deathless enchantress' who has the ability to migrate her soul from one body to another.

There are, the bookbinder tells us, two ways to read these stories. Obviously, they can be read in chronological order. Alternatively, there is the 'Baroness sequence', which jumps from one narrative to another in order to stitch the three stories into a patchwork novel. At the end of each chapter, a page number (or, in the ebook, a link) tells you where to go next. This is how I chose to read it.

Possible spoilers ahead: read this way, Crossings emerges as the epic, fantastical love story of Alula and Koahu from the island of Oaeetee. The elders of their community have learned the art of 'crossing', which allows a person's spirit to enter another's body. When the lovers are separated, Alula dedicates the rest of her life to searching for Koahu – and because she crosses again and again, her quest spans two centuries. The Baudelaire and Benjamin stories are secondary to this emotionally powerful narrative, but Landragin weaves them all together ingeniously.

I certainly won't be the first to say it, but this wonderfully absorbing piece of speculative literary fiction is highly evocative of David Mitchell's work. Coincidentally, I read this shortly after Mitchell's forthcoming novel Utopia Avenue, which isn't vintage (or typical) Mitchell; Crossings turns out to be a more fitting recommendation for fans of, say, Cloud Atlas than the new book by its actual author. It's a really impressive debut.

I received an advance review copy of Crossings from the publisher through Edelweiss.

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Profile Image for Radwa.
Author 1 book2,107 followers
February 6, 2022
القراءة الثانية في 2022 زادت من حبي لهذه الرواية، أنا بحب الروايات المبذول فيها جهد، الممتعة وفي نفس الوقت الساحرة. الرواية دي مميزة لأنها أولا مكتوبة بطريقة تسمح للشخص بقراءتها بطريقتين مختلفتين، فهي إما أن تُقرأ كأي رواية عادية فنجد أنفسنا نقرأ 3 قصص متتالية مترابطة، أو نقرأها بترتيب البارونة في مقدمة الكتاب وهو يأخذنا بين الفصول والقصص ليخلق نفس القصة ولكن بشعور مختلف. قصة في صميمها عن سحر العبور، وهو تناقل الأرواح بين الأجساد وكيف يؤثر هذا السحر على حياة شخصين على مدار عقود.

رواية مقسمة لـ3 أجزاء، مع بعض بيشكلوا حكاية واحد عن الخلود والأدب والحب. الخلود فيها بيتم التعامل معاه بشكل رائع ومختلف عن روايات كتيرة قريتها عن الفكرة دي، وهي قصة حب عبر أجيال عن اتنين بيحاولوا يكونوا مع بعض بالسحر أو بطرق عادية، لكن كل ما بيقربوا من بعض حاجة بتحصل تبعدهم تاني. والمميز فيها كمية الشخصيات الحقيقية اللي بيدخلها الكاتب في روايته ويعمل حبكات عليها تكاد تكون منطقية، منهم مثلا الشاعر الفرنسي تشارلز بودلير وملهمته جين دوفال.
القصة مكتوبة بأسلوب مبهر، وكونها رواية الكاتب الأولى مخليني أتوقع منه حاجات كتيرة في الرواية التانية.

Uh, is this a new favorite of the year? and maybe of all time? why, yes!

This book ticks all my boxes, there's fantasy/magical realism, there's two different ways to read it, it's like a saga spanning so many years, and lifetimes!

This book starts as the bind-up of 3 manuscripts a baroness left to a book binder to make them into one book, and he prefaces the story of the baroness and tells us that there are two ways to read this book or "manuscript". The book is clearly divided into 3 parts: "The Education of a Monster" is a story supposedly written by Charles Baudelaire, "City of Ghosts" is a noir thriller in Paris during the 1940s and it's heavily related to the 1st story, and "Tale of the Albatross" is as they described it "an autobiography of a deathless enchantress" and truly it is! It's almost where all the magic happens!

In its essence this novel is a historical love story of two star-crossed lovers, with a unique look and approach to immortality. With a touch of a loose retelling of Frankenstein or the making of a monster. The writing is lush and surprising fr a debut author, and though the author is a man, I didn't feel his female characters were jarring. It's truly genre-bending, as you can't truly say it's historical fiction, or fantasy, or a war story, or a retelling.

I think it's best not to go into this book knowing any more, as it was such a fun ride!! and I'll definitely buy the book when it's released to reread it in the other sequence! I highly recommend it and I'll be keeping my eye on this author's future releases.
Profile Image for Exitgirl05.
151 reviews67 followers
April 29, 2021

“I didn’t write this book. I stole it...”

Don’t miss out this one! I first heard about Crossings from a bookblogger whose opinion I greatly appreciate. Her enthusiasm prompted me to read it and it turned out that this time too she found a real diamond!
Alex Landragin has succeeded, where many contemporary writers fail, in creating an original story, different from all written so far. Exciting, mysterious and uncertain. Characters you will love, hate, pity and understand. What is even more important to note is that the book can be read in two ways. In the traditional way, from the first to the last page, or by skipping in order which the writer suggests. In either case, you won't go wrong. You will not spoil the enjoyment. I read it in order, but after a short break, I intend to read it in another way.
Landragin announced that there will be two more sequels where he will explain the events and characters that are only mentioned in this book, and which are very much related to the fates of the main characters of Crossings. I hope it will be soon...
Profile Image for (inactive).
211 reviews85 followers
April 25, 2020
Beautiful. Slow. Dull.

The concept of this novel is what originally drew me in. The idea of having a book be read two different ways, one of which involves a choose your own adventure type of navigation, was genius. I chose to try out the Baroness sequence (which is explained in the prologue), and after reading such a strong beginning, I was ready to devour the story and give it five stars.

Alas, I couldn't even get through the novel in it's entirety.

The prose was lovely, but every little thing was being described. I would zone out in the middle of the page, and have to go back eight paragraphs just to try and remember what was happening. Literary fiction is a genre I enjoy thoroughly, but in this case the beautiful writing was all there was.

I tried so incredibly hard to form an attachment to at least one of the story lines--there are three, after all!--but couldn't bring myself to care about a single character or even one of the plots. Characters are what make or break a story for me, and in this case I cared so little about the people in the story that I knew I had to mark this book as a DNF (Did Not Finish).

The story could not hold my attention, and the jumping back and forth and back and forth and back again got to be so jarring that I could hardly orient myself at all. I found that the parts I did read were predictable, and there was no thrill, no tension, no stakes. The love story was bland and did not hook me in at all, and I've already forgotten both the characters and their names.

If this book was as incredible as that prologue, I would have taken hours off from life to devour it and would have most definitely rated it a full five stars. But, it wasn't like that, and so I stopped reading half way through.

Although I myself could not bother to enjoy this, I know that it had mostly to do with the fact that this book was not for me. It just wasn't my cup of tea. I do hope that the targeted audience for this book finds it and loves it, and I wholeheartedly believe that this book deserves so much hype when it gets released. It's a genre bending story, and reads like a classic, so in that sense it is extremely promising.

In the end, though, I couldn't force myself into finishing it.

Of course, thank you NetGalley for giving me a chance with this novel, and I hope the next person who picks it up falls in love with it.
Profile Image for Camelia Rose.
672 reviews92 followers
February 26, 2023
“Crossing” invented by the author Alex Landragin refers to a soul transferring from one body to another while both bodies are alive. I enjoyed this fantasy plus historical fiction.

There are two ways to read this book: the regular way, i.e. from front to back, or, in Baroness sequence, i.e. following the page order specified in “Note to the Reader”. If you read it like a regular book, you will find three loosely linked stories. If you, like me, choose the Baroness sequence, you will read a single story woven together by an invisible thread (the internal logic).

Fun, inventive and well-written. It reminds me of Claire North’s Touch. I see why one might compare it to The Cloud Atlas. Both books include multiple story lines across time and space, and a plot line on a remote pacific Island, but that’s where the similarity ends. Crossing is lightweight, less complex, less philosophical than The Cloud Atlas.
Profile Image for Athena (OneReadingNurse).
732 reviews104 followers
November 15, 2019
Thank you so much to St Martin's Press for the early copy! It is the uncorrected manuscript form so if I mention something that doesn't make sense in a later version, this could be why!

The first word that comes to my blown mind after finishing this book is "epic". I read it in the Baroness sequence, so it read as a pair of lovers' souls that are body hopping across countries and centuries trying to right the wrong they did by stealing bodies in the first place. The reviews I think will be very different depending on if the book is read in the published order, as three stories where the final one kind of ties everything together, or as a sweeping epic like I did.

In Oaeetee, a Pacific island full of native magic, a crossing is a form of communication where two people can essentially swap souls in order to ascertain each other's motivations and story. One part of The Law that governs this is that once a crossing is made, a return crossing must happen. After a freak accident where one young man, Koahu, is caught mid crossing when his body is injured, his lover Alula completes a full crossing and follows him on to the trader ship. The story starts here, with Alula and Koahu in various bodies across the centuries. Koahu's messed up crossing ensures that he never remembers without writing it down, and even then he is a natural skeptic. Alula remembers and considers herself his guardian. The first two stories are ones told by bodies of Koahu, and the third is Alula and all of her lifetimes There is a third soul that is eventually brought in as the … I don't want to say antagonist, but he kind of becomes Alula's nemesis and the driving point in her story.

In either sequence I think the respective endings will blow a reader's mind. I can't imagine the amount of planning it took to write an alternate chapter sequence that actually makes semse. It was hard to follow at first as there were a lot of characters and it wasn't connected at all, but once I learned what was going on and got the hang of Landragin's style, it was sn absolutely incredible journey.

From French colonization to literary society conspiracies in Paris and the nazi invasion, this book literally has EVERYTHING in it. Puzzles, murders, multiple love stories, much love for literature, and even Coco Chanel is found in these pages. I personally love anything set in Paris as well and a considerable portion of this book is set there, at least in the second story.

Lastly I just want to mention the prologue - the story is framed by the "author" of the manuscript publishing something that came into his possession, aka this book. It is written by the second to last known body of Koahu and tied into the present, so if you re read the prologue after reading the book you start to spot a ton of easter eggs contained in it. I just can't imagine that this is a debut novel, I am going to need to read anything he publishes in the future as well!

Other than the unavoidable initial confusion by reading the baroness sequence, I have nothing bad to say about the book. Some parts of Alula's story didn't seem to have a lot to do with the main storyline, like Feuille, although it showed the darker, more depressed side of her personality. I wasn't bored at any point reading it, and had fun ticking off the chapters I had read as it skipped around. I would fully recommend the book to anyone who thinks it sounds up their alley. It will release in July of 2020!
Profile Image for Cristina Capozzi.
159 reviews31 followers
January 23, 2023
Un romanzo veramente originale e appassionante.
La cosa che mi ha maggiormente colpito di questo primo libro di Alex Landragin è l'idea della struttura del romanzo. Questo è infatti un romanzo nel romanzo, in cui i tre manoscritti che lo compongono, scritti in epoche diverse e da diversi autori, possono essere letti uno dopo l’altro oppure seguendo una sequenza alternativa di capitoli, che l'autore chiama "la sequenza della Baronessa". Leggerlo in questo modo ti fa perdere la percezione di dove sei all'interno del libro e della storia e puoi solo abbandonarti alla narrazione. Due esperienze di lettura completamente diverse, che hanno richiesto all'autore una notevole padronanza tecnica e un ottimo controllo della storia con i suoi vari snodi narrativi.
Se deciderete di leggerlo, vi consiglio la sequenza della Baronessa, dove una mano sapiente vi condurrà da un manoscritto all’altro, attraverso i secoli, accompagnandovi nella bellissima vicenda di queste due anime che si cercano e che da un certo punto in poi si tingerà anche di giallo.
Profile Image for Kasa Cotugno.
2,413 reviews491 followers
June 23, 2020
Truly original in concept and execution, this tour de force took me right out of the negativity of today and into another universe. Part Scherezade, a bit of Cloud Atlas, even a little 1Q84. Not my usual choice, but I found it a great escape.
Profile Image for Chrissie.
1,009 reviews49 followers
May 16, 2020
With a fascinating concept and execution, the structure is either entertainingly crosshatched or straightforward—depending on the method you choose. With all the feel of an adult Choose Your Own Adventure story, without having to actually go through the tedium of choosing. The Baroness Sequence Pagination is one of the two methods of reading through the story, and those sections end with a simple "Go here" link that takes you to the next appropriate section. (I did have some technical difficulties with the Kindle linking (and even the naming of the upcoming section) but I methodically broke down both attack strategies by their chapter names and the Kindle locations they span, and came up with what I believe is the correct order from the Baroness's instructions.)

Rest assured, I will be rereading this soon with the other method — simply turning the pages in the given order.

Regardless, the entire escapade is worth the effort. Following souls through time in an overlapping method that allows each individual story to develop alongside the others, and waiting for the pieces to finally fit together in one larger picture was completely and utterly engrossing. I did not want to put this book down or to end. Landragin has created characters for Crossings that have so much depth; they feel every bit as ancient and well-traveled as they are in their own stories. That includes the real-life characters who make an appearance of sorts in the book: Charles Baudelaire, Jeanne Duval, and Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel.

Crossings is an appropriate name — calling to mind a journey over the seas, but Landragin uses it as the name of another kind of journey here. Nonetheless, this novel is a veritable basketweave of three narratives. With reading it as the Baroness intended, I believe she's allowed most of the work to be done by the stories themselves. Whereas, it's up to the reader to tie everything in completely when reading it straight through. Either way, both ways, create a supremely masterful novel.

With hints of Orlando, a drop of The Song of Hiawatha, and a fragmental resemblance to Cloud Atlas, Crossings stands among some greats — and holds up to the label of genre-bending.

I will definitely be purchasing my own physical copy for the reread coming up.

I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This affected neither my opinion of the book, nor the content of my review.
Profile Image for Ruth.
218 reviews17 followers
June 28, 2019
I'm a big fan of The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (Stuart Turton), The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August (Claire North) and The Starless Sea (Erin Morgenstern). This feels like Australia's answer to those books and I loved it!

This book is three novellas that can be taken as completely seperate stories. However there's an alternative way of reading it where you jump from chapter to chapter across the three stories to read one cohesive novel. Don't worry, this is all explained in the prologue and you can choose which way you would prefer to read it. I read it as a one novel (bouncing from chapter to chapter). I can guess what it would be like as three seperate novellas but I didn't read it that way so this review only covers the single novel option.

This is a hard one to describe without giving too much away. It's an epic story of three characters across time and continents. It certainly has a paranormal element when read as a novel so you definitely need to be open to the fantastical to embrace that telling, however in a similar way to The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle I would argue that the paranormal aspect isn't the central theme of the tale - you could almost just believe that everyone is delusional and still thoroughly enjoy the novel. I love concept fiction like this when it's done delicately and thoroughly the way it is here.

I would highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Kevin Kelsey.
412 reviews2,220 followers
March 25, 2023
Structurally fascinating, but ultimately fell short for me because it was almost entirely plot driven, with fairly bland characters, and very little subtext. Also, the sections written by Baudelaire and Walter Benjamin didn't feel as if they were written by those writers.

I read the Baroness sequence and felt like 80% of this book was just slowly waiting for the obvious pieces to fall into their proper place. Perhaps the linear read order avoids some of these pitfalls? Either way, it's incredible that this book can be read in two orders at all. That alone is a huge accomplishment.

I'm going to keep an eye out for Landragin's future writing.
Profile Image for Wendy.
4 reviews3 followers
June 7, 2019
I loved this book, read it in the “choose your adventure mode” and will now read it in the the three different manuscripts,
Profile Image for Ari Levine.
202 reviews160 followers
September 6, 2020
3.5 stars. An enjoyable but overly gimmicky David Mitchell homage, with two separate choose-your-own-adventure paths for the reader to follow. Being stodgy and lame, I read it from cover to cover instead of bravely hopscotching forth on the Baroness Sequence, but maybe that would have enhanced the experience of reading this literary-ish attempt at a thriller. The novel contains three distinct narratives: the first a scenery-chewing confession by a depraved Charles Baudelaire in exile, the second a wild manuscript chase by an unbelievably heroic Walter Benjamin through Nazi-occupied Paris, and the third recounts the seven lives of a body-swapping nomadic soul from the South Seas to antebellum New Orleans back to Paris. Solving this puzzle box of intrigue kept the pages turning, and the prose was suitably overwrought, but this was an upscale version of junk food: entertaining at the time in large portions, but not particularly memorable a few hours after reading.

Thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for offering me an ARC in exchange for this unbiased review.
Profile Image for Nursebookie.
2,191 reviews340 followers
November 13, 2020
Alex Landragin

Sometimes you read a book so special you just stop and say, WOW no further words needed. This is one of them.

I read this through chronologically as I was also listening to the audiobook which was amazing. I plan to read this in the future again with the chapters out of order (Baroness’ sequence) to experience this book again in a different light.

The writing is simply divine and the language beautiful. It is a genre all on its own with sprinkling of fantasy and magical, suspense and mystery, historical fiction, romance, and futuristic scifi. With an amazing world building and character development, this was a masterpiece.

Exquisite book well told.

Profile Image for Amira Carroll (Author).
686 reviews141 followers
December 31, 2021
I had a beyond fantastic time reading this. The concept of multiple lifetimes and soulmates merely trying to find each other was amazing and Alex Landragin does a phenomenal job with it. Filled with murder, romance, and hints of magic and a different kind of phenomenon, Crossings does a spectacular job making me want to read more.

It might have taken me over a week or two to read it but it’s been a long time since I read a paperback. But I’m glad I read it physically because originally my audiobook simply didn’t do this book the justice.

This was a fantastic read. A little slow but completely worth it.

Find me on:
My Blog | My BookTube | My Book Club | Instagram | Twitter
Profile Image for Krista.
831 reviews62 followers
July 28, 2020
Rating: 4.5 stars rounded down to 4 clever, clever stars

As my rating attests, I think that this is a CLEVER, CLEVER book. This debut novel by Alex Landragin is both mind-bending and genre bending. It has elements of Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Romance, Fantasy, and Memoir genres. The book can be read in a couple of ways. The three novellas can be read in order straight through, or you can read it in the ‘Baroness’ order.

I read the book in the Baroness order. This order hopscotches back and forth between all three stories. It actually added another element of mystery as I tried to figure out where the current selection I was reading fit in the overall narrative. The book blurb gives enough of the outline of the book. I do not think that I need to go into further depth on that here. In fact, going into further depth might spoil the voyage of discovery that awaits each reader.

I highly recommend this outstanding work of fiction. I will eagerly look out for new works by this author. While I am waiting for his next work, I’ll gladly go back and read this book from front to back in the non-Baroness order I bet I will discover entirely new delightful elements in this tale.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley. These are my honest thoughts.
Profile Image for Michelle.
Author 29 books1,039 followers
April 11, 2020
A brilliantly complex, beautifully written narrative about shifting identities, spanning decades and continents. It was especially interesting in my current state of lockdown in Paris to read about Paris on the eve of occupation. We have been on lockdown for 26 days. Each morning, I run down the middle of Boulevard Hoche en route to the Arc de Triomphe, the end of the 1km I am allowed to travel from my apartment for exercise. At one point in the book, one of the characters remarks on the strangeness of running down one of Paris's wide boulevards without cars. The book draws one into the lives of characters who are astonished by their inexplicable connections with others, by the memories that come to them from distant times and places. Reading this book on my tiny Paris balcony above the silent, abandoned streets, I have a sense of crossing into the lives of the Landragin's characters, who wander Paris in a state of altered consciousness that is not so different from my own.
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