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
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 that drives her to write fiction based on historical fact.
Her first novel, Timeslip, is a light-hearted historical fiction with a difference in that the two main protagonists travel back to 1851. Through their eyes readers are taken around the streets of London that were literally throbbing with life and where, for many, every day had a sense of occasion. Nina also felt compelled to write about Alexis Soyer, the Victorian French chef who achieved so much in his short lifetime and yet is now almost forgotten.