In shirt-sleeves, the way I generally worked, I sat sketching a bar of soap taped to an upper corner of my drawing board.
Simon Morley is leading an average enough life, working for an advertising company, when a man comes calling. This man, Rube Prien, offers him a new job, working for the government, but he must keep it a secret, and until he agrees he won’t know what it is he is signing up to. At first he thinks he’ll refuse but slowly his curiosity gets the better of him. And he discovers that the secret is time-travel.
But there is no time-machine, no vortex, or wormhole. This is all about the power of the mind. And eventually Si manages to make his way back to New York in 1882. His reasons for choosing that year are innocent enough. A bit of family history he would like to witness. No interfering or altering events. But things don’t always go smooth, and soon enough Si find himself caught up in the events of 1882.
I really enjoyed this book. I knew almost nothing about it before opening it; I was vaguely aware that it was about time travel but that was it. And it was quite unlike what I expected. The method of time-travel for example. But I also enjoyed the style in which the book was written. It is a first person-narrator, and at times Si addresses the reader directly, in an almost conversational manner, that isn’t always totally direct, but lets you get to know Si.
I’m not going to say everything there is to say about Kate and me. I’ve read such accounts, completely explicit and details, nothing omitted; and when they’ve been good I’ve liked them. Sometimes I’ve even learned something about people from them, almost like an actual experience, and that’s very good indeed. But my nature is different, that’s all. I don’t like to and I could not reveal everything about myself. I like to read them, but I wouldn’t like to write one. I’m not holding back anything all that unique, in any case. So if now and then you think you can read between the lines, you may be right; or may not.
A lot of the book is made up of Si describing the differences between the New York he knew and the New York of the 1880s, he also includes photos and sketches, which add to the whole mood of the book.
Not only is it a very engaging and readable novel, but it also brings up issues and big questions. Not in a preachy “I have the answer” sort of way, instead, the book seems to be asking the reader their opinion.
“I just don’t think anyone has the godlike wisdom to actually rearrange the present by altering the part. … “I don’t know! Who does know? I think the most enormous kinds of decisions are being made by people who don’t know either. Only in their own opinion do they know.”
It was written in the 1970’s so it is a little dated, Si’s way of looking at women is somehow old fashioned and different, to my eyes anyway. This isn’t a negative though, simply a difference.
This is a very well written book that blends time travel, mystery and even a bit of romance together. Although if I’m honest, the romance felt a little off to me, I’m not quite sure why. Still that one slight quibble isn’t enough for me to dislike this novel. Others may feel that it is a little slow in getting the story started, I didn’t, almost immediately I got to like Si, and enjoyed his style of storytelling.