No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Sunday, December 27, 2015

2015/41: A Symphony of Echoes -- Jodi Taylor

One event leads to another, which triggers something else and before you know where you are, the ramifications spread far and wide throughout History. Echoing down the ages. Getting fainter and fainter, but never completely dying away. They talk of The Harmony of the Spheres, but History is A Symphony of Echoes. [loc. 2625]

In which Max encounters Jack the Ripper, mocks some dodos, adjusts Mary Stuart's love life, and witnesses the assassination of Sennacherib. ('Standing on a small, grassy knoll at the site of an assassination is never good in any language.') Her affair with Leon Farrell takes a couple of unexpected turns, and the enemies of St Mary's Institute of Historical Research (who have the unique advantage of possessing actual time machines) come up with new and horrible ways to interfere with St Mary's personnel -- and with history itself.

This was a headlong read: Max barely gets a moment to breathe, and I read the novel straight through on a delayed flight. Only in hindsight did I notice that a couple of the episodes seem totally disconnected from the rest of the plot. The 'Jack the Ripper' incident seems to have no lasting effect: the visit to Niniveh ditto. The primary plot, concerning a forged Shakespeare play that reflects an altered history, threads through the whole novel: perhaps we're just being shown that it isn't the only matter on Max's plate.

Max does some pretty nasty things in the course of this novel. She is not the only one. As a character, I find her llikeably fascinating -- and I can absolutely relate to her refusal to take any more, even when she's wallowing in self-loathing and guilt. (I'm not entirely convinced I'd like her if we met, though. And her refusal to discuss her feelings is ... vexatious in the extreme.)

Jodi Taylor writes good history, and good time travel, and doesn't shy from the nastier or more complicated aspects of either. Always a good read.

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