For The Bookies Book Club – Holly’s selection
FIRST sentence: The first thing I noticed was the clarity of the air, and then the sharp green colour of the land.
What’s it ABOUT: This is an odd tale of time travel. Our protagonist is named Dick and he has recently quit his job in publishing though he has no idea what he will do next. You might think he is suffering a mid-life crisis. He doesn’t seem too terrifically thrilled with his marriage of three years to an American named Vita. Prior to marrying Dick, Vita was a widow with two sons and these boys seem to be going to school in England. That’s never explained and not really relevant. Anyway, Vita wants Dick to take a job with her brother, also in publishing, and this job would take the family to Long Island New York. He has no interest in moving to the United States.
With the boys soon to be on holiday, Dick has arranged to spend this time with the family in the house of his good friend Magnus, a biophysicist. The house is in Cornwall. The setting could certainly be considered another character in the story – the landscape plays a big role.
So. Time travel. I do love a time travel story! But as I have mentioned, this traveling is quite odd. It is chemically-induced. While Dick has a week to contemplate his unknown future but also to prepare for his family’s arrival, Magnus wants Dick to conduct an experiment. Take this drug! See what happens! Tell me all about it!
So Dick ingests the concoction and finds himself in the 14th century. He certainly finds lots of exciting happenings to be interested in but now he has to put up with Vita and the boys and the excruciatingly frustrating situation of finding time to take these trips back to the Cornwall of old.
What’s GOOD: The setting and the premise is captivating. Dick always goes back in time to find himself following – always connected – to the guy who used to live on the property where Magnus’s house has been built. The lives and the drama of the people Dick encounters create suspense and intrigue – dastardly deeds, power-hungry struggles and illicit affairs abound. Dick loses interest in his ‘real’ life and with each trip, he puts this current life in danger. What will happen next?!
What’s NOT so good: I think I can consider how the author took a few ideas and inspirations to create this story but I couldn’t buy the premise. Drug use is considered a ‘trip’, right? But. How can both Magnus and Dick take a drug that puts both of them into the same old setting? The explanation of awakened memory cells through generations cannot convince me. If, however, Magnus and Dick had been related, brothers even, I might – maybe, doubtfully, but maybe — make a case for this, but it doesn’t fly.
FINAL Thoughts: I had read this book in 2007 so this was a re-read for me. I had rated it 5 stars – I had really gotten into the drama, I think. I recall thinking it would make a cool movie. With so many of duMaurier’s ideas adapted to the big screen, why not this one? In fact, I still think this would be an interesting film, even with stumbling how to explain that a drug causes time travel.
I began this re-read having totally forgotten how the story ended, so I was once again, quite captivated to finish and find out! The pacing is good, the crisis Dick experiences with repeated use of the drug and the confusions when the worlds start to fuse together, plus the question of Vita figuring it out – she easily suspects something is wrong and he doggedly (and meanly) puts her off. Magnus is just dastardly, too – in my opinion. How could he ever think to put his friend and himself into such an experiment?
If you love an English setting and also enjoy time travel, this is a must. But temper your expectations, it won’t be as good as Rebecca. (Have you read Rebecca? If you want to read some Daphne du Maurier, do read Rebecca!)
Purchased from an Amazon bookseller – didn’t realize I was getting an old hardback but very delighted. Inside was a scrap of paper that had a list: “cigs, cereal, t.paper”. #foundinabook