before Christmas, 1348 stonemason John and his brother William
are travelling back to their homes in Devon. But nothing is
the same as it was when they were last there, as the country
is in the grip of the Black Death. Soon they too are in trouble,
but a voice tells them that they have two choices. They can
continue home and die in six days’ time, or they can
spend their last days travelling into the future. Each morning
when they wake it will be ninety-nine years since they last
did; will the pair be able to save their souls?
I am invariably impressed when an author decides to try something
a bit different, and this book ticks not only this but several
other boxes too. John narrates the story, giving his own perspective
on each period and how it differs (or is the same) to his
own time. The changes in religion, the calendar, dress, morals,
buildings, inventions and more are seen through the eyes of
an ordinary man. His opinions on them are those of a man of
his time, and what upsets him the most is how little regard
people have for the things he considers important. He witnesses
the Civil War, an 18th century workhouse, tries his hand at
tin mining, attends a play and gets caught in the Exeter blitz.
As I live in Devon myself, I was particularly interested to
read about how it changes through the ages and also how it
tallies with what I have read about the county’s history.
As with any novel dealing with some of history’s darker
times, this is not a jolly tale, but John meets with some
good people and witnesses that however grim the period is,
there are always opportunities to make things better. I didn’t
guess the denouement, but when I turned the last page I felt
satisfied in the way you do after a good meal. There is plenty
to chew over from what things are so vital to human existence
that they transcend time, to how each period views the past.
Highly recommended and a treat to savor.