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October 2017: Society > "Time and Again" by Jack Finney (3 and half stars)

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message 1: by KateNZ (new)

KateNZ | 2504 comments Simon Morley is a frustrated artist working at an ad agency in New York, when he's approached to take part in a secret government time travel project. Using mostly the power of his imagination, as well as an apartment in the Dakota building with a view unchanged since the 1880s, and some slightly alarming self-hypnosis techniques, Si manages to transport himself back to the New York of the past. His aim: to see a man mail a letter and to unravel the story behind a mysterious suicide in his girlfriend's family.

I enjoyed the story, and the premise of the novel, but the thing that really stood out was the lovingly detailed, artist's-eye imaginings of what life for so many people in 1880s New York would have been like. There are a couple of glimpses into high society, but Finney's focus is on the gritty reality of the life of ordinary folks: the coachman freezing on his box to earn the pittance of a wage that will help to feed his family; the boarding house occupants; the new immigrants; the grime and smell; the aged janitor; the fire fighters; the corrupt police force. There are also the surprises that come of finding small farms instead of high rise buildings. Not that Finney rates the 1960s/1970s setting of Simon's 'now' any higher - there are more than a few caustic references to modern warfare, nuclear arms, air and water pollution and the loss of innocence.

Ironically, though, I did find my attention wandering during the central dramatic episodes - the author had obviously done a lot of research into the historical incident at the heart of the action, but I felt that the details drowned the narrative tension. This knocked a solid 4 star read back to three and a half stars for me. But definitely still recommended.


message 2: by JoLene (new)

JoLene (trvl2mtns) | 1532 comments I agree with -- while reading I was struck by some of the small details of life. For example, the entertainment that they thought of at the boarding house left an impression on me. But I felt like some of the details bogged down the narrative so the pacing was uneven. I did think the drawings were really neat.


message 3: by KateNZ (new)

KateNZ | 2504 comments JoLene wrote: "I did think the drawings were really neat...."

The drawings were fabulous! I was really glad I'd downloaded the illustrated edition


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