Published: 01/11/2013
ISBN: 9781783061440
eISBN: 9781783068876
Format: Paperback/eBook

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Nina lives in Cambridgeshire with her husband and two teenage sons. She has a BA in History and English. Her career has been varied, but it is her fascination with unusual aspects of social history ... read more

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by N. M. Kirby

When two history students, Jude and Susanna, inadvertently slip back in time to nineteenth-century London, they are presented with people and places that they had only ever read about. They know it makes sense to try and get home, but they become drawn into a place where the highs of the colourful nightlife coincide with the lows of destitution.

Mesmerised by the sights and sounds in the streets, they soon get into the spirit of Victorian life and try to blend in by living amongst the citizens. In order to survive, they must pawn Susanna’s charms from her bracelet which, unbeknown to them, cause great interest due to their originality, leading to an investigation by the police.

Unaware of this, they are invited to a dinner attended by distinguished guests, including artist John Everett Millais, but out of their depth with the conversation and etiquette, it becomes obvious that they are imposters. Intrigued by London’s ever-changing architecture, the pair continues on, visiting places such as The Great Exhibition and meeting French chef Alexis Soyer. However, now they are seen as fraudsters, the public and police close in, making them determined to find their way home.

A tale of loyalty and friendship that stands the test of time, in any era, Timeslip is a factual but light-hearted novel set in London in the 1850s. It opens up a new perspective for the reader, exploring the lesser-documented festive streets and allowing them to experience it for themselves.

The author was inspired by authors such as Joseph Conrad, T. S. Eliot and William Boyd. Timeslip makes an informative and exciting read for anyone with an interest in historical fiction or the history of their surroundings.

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This is quite a gentle story, although the main characters, Jude and Susie, certainly come up against the rough edges and seamy underbelly of Victorian life! Jude and Susie are history students at a college, and are whisked back in time to the Victorian era during their break-time. Over a period of two or three weeks they have various adventures whilst managing to soak up the atmosphere of the time, having arrived with no valid currency, just a silver charm bracelet. Susie pawns the charms, not realising that they are very different from the jewellery of the era, so that people soon start to think they are forgers or counterfeiters – especially as Jude is observed by a suspicious servant to have a modern pound coin on him. The story makes a virtue out of anachronism – as their behaviour is also very different, and they are a bit naïve with regard to Victorian etiquette. Even their speech gives them away, and eventually they are chased by upper class Londoners and the police alike.

The story is quite episodic; each event happens separately over the period that they are in Victorian times. They happen to be there when The Great Exhibition is on in London, so of course they have to go to that, and they meet quite a lot of people who later became famous, including the French chef, Alexis Soyer, a Victorian equivalent of Jamie Oliver, and Millais, the painter, to name but two. The wealth of detail in the descriptions is fantastic. A great deal of research has obviously gone into this story.

The interesting thing is that in their own social setting, they are reasonably well-equipped (bearing in mind they’re students) to function; but in the Victorian setting, they just aren’t. This isn’t just to do with their youth. It’s the fact that they are fish out of water, despite having studied the period.

The story is a circular story, where the end comes at the point where it started, though it actually continues slightly to accommodate the witty ending. The style is very easy to read, so I finished it in about 4 hours – a quick read for me as I’m dyslexic and can’t skim or scan – I have to read every word. But I enjoyed reading about Jude and Susie’s adventures very much, and became quite invested in them as characters.

by Helen Claire Gould


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