The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Publishing Date: 9th August 2018
Source: Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!
Number of pages: 368
Genre: Mystery & Thrillers, Sci – Fi & Fantasy
A time travel murder mystery from a brilliantly original new voice. Perfect for readers of Naomi Alderman’s The Power and Emily St John Mandel’s Station Eleven.
Four female scientists invent a time travel machine. They are on the cusp of fame: the pioneers who opened the world to new possibilities. But then one of them suffers a breakdown and puts the whole project in peril…
Ruby knows her beloved Granny Bee was a pioneer, but they never talk about the past. Though time travel is now big business, Bee has never been part of it. Then they receive a message from the future – a newspaper clipping reporting the mysterious death of an elderly lady…
When Odette discovered the body she went into shock. Blood everywhere, bullet wounds, that strong reek of sulphur. But when the inquest fails to find any answers, she is frustrated. Who is this dead woman that haunts her dreams? And why is everyone determined to cover up her murder?
In 1967, time travelling was invented by four female scientists – Barbara, Margaret, Estelle and Grace. Just before they were to introduce their invention to the world, Barbara suffers a nervous breakdown on live TV and is ejected from the project by Margaret. Soon after “the Conclave” is created by the remaining three pioneers, monopolised, with its own laws and different rules applied organisation to control time travelling and all the things it involves.
In 2017 Barbara and her granddaughter Ruby find an origami rabbit on their doorstep – a body of a woman will be found. Who is this woman? How far is she linked to the Conclave?
In 2018, a young student Odette stumbles upon a body in a toy museum. It affects her much more than she’s supposed it’s going to and so she decides to investigate – who was this woman, why was she murdered and how. All the threads lead to the Conclave – she joins it and becomes a time traveller, hoping to discover more about the death. She doesn’t know that she’s going to discover much more…
I was immediately hooked and immersed in the lives of those four strong women. They were all exceptional characters, innovative and strong, not afraid to take the initiative. Actually, all the women in this book were like this. They were intelligent and independent, not relying on men, and it was refreshing to read a book like this, where they achieved what they wanted on themselves. However, as much as I appreciated them, and no matter how well they were written, I couldn’t completely connect with them. I think it’s because of the number of the characters in this book, there were simply too many of them, and every few chapters we were introduced to a new one – in the present or in the future, and it was just doing my head. Nevertheless, I followed their stories with abated breath and actually enjoyed the diversity. Also, because of this time jumping we don’t have enough time to spend with the main characters at one period of time, to get to know them, to see what makes them tick, what did they feel, what did they think.
It takes time to get into this book, guys. The introduction is a very, very long one but to be honest it couldn’t be different. We need this time to really fully get into the heart of this story, to understand it. For me personally it really took of somewhere around the middle, when Odette applied for the job – the chapters turned into very short and the perspective changed almost on every page but it was easy to keep on track and to follow what’s going on. One thing took me a little by surprise, to be honest. I’m not a sci – fi chick, Dr. Who is absolutely not my scenery but from what I’ve seen and read about time travel there is one thing that is a no – go for this genre, and it is seeing your other – not sure how to call it – versions. I mean, you travel in time, and you see your other selves, moreover, you maintain relations with them, you tell them your future – I don’t think that it would work, do you? How confusing would that be, how dangerous. And, frankly, I didn’t get the idea of the silver and green version, I don’t know which one was supposed to be the real one.
The story follows many different threads and also it all the time jumps back and forth in time and changes points of view. However, guys, it doesn’t feel confusing. every chapter is preceded with the date and the name of the character so it was easy to follow, even with some of the characters just popping out of the blue. The plot is one of the most complex ones that I’ve come across in books and I really appreciated that, and the way it was kept clear. It also focuses on such issues like mental health, OCD and anxiety so you can see that, next to the main plot of time travelling, it’s really busy, and you expect it to flow. This element of mystery worked also really well. OK, it was actually the thing that made me feel confused, I think, it took me some time to completely understand when it happened and how it happened, but I liked it – if it were too straightforward the book would lost the tension and this element of mystery. The writing style was beautiful, very elegant and eloquent and the descriptions very detailed and vivid – they had to be, I think, to give us a chance to completely understand everything. However, what it doesn’t explain is how the time paradoxes worked, and I still can’t get over the seeing your other selves thing. Sorry. I’m repeating myself, I know, but it’s just bugging me.
I was intrigued by the premise of this book alone, but I haven’t expected that it’s going to be so good. I loved the way Ms Mascarenhas explored time travelling and what it could do to people involved in it, how people’s lives took a different shape, how it affected them and their mental health. Of course time travelling that allows to meet your other selves includes death and they are able to visit those who have died whenever they like (the dead are not surprised by those visit! See? Again, this time paradox), so it also deals with death, and maybe not taking people for granted. Altogether “The Psychology of Time Travel” is an excellent debut, mixing a variety of genres. It’s partly science – fiction, partly mystery, partly thriller and it may sound complicated and unusual but it works perfectly. It was complex and challenging, highly unique and not as sci – fi as I was afraid it’s going to be. Maybe one of the advantages is the fact that the four pioneers simply invited the time travelling machine, that there wasn’t any whys and whats, it just happened, period. It was also about love and relationships – between friends, between mothers and daughters, exploring many of them in different ways and showing various variations of them. Highly recommended!
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