We’re giving away copies of The Map of Time! Tell us about your most memorable summer read to get your copy.
Welcome to the Chatelaine Book Club. We’ve now started reading and do we ever have thoughts to share! But before we launch into our discussion, meet your readers:
Laurie Grassi is books editor at Chatelaine. She’s been a bookworm since she was little and thinks that has been both the making and the ruin of her. She so vividly envisions what she’s reading that sometimes she doesn’t know if she’s seen the movie adaptation of a book or just imagined it.
Alex Laws is an associate editor at Chatelaine. She studied English at Brunel University and has long been a fan of the written word. She is a romantic at heart and will persevere with any story so long as there’s a sensual subplot (even fantasy if you force her)!
Stacy Lee Kong is assistant editor, articles, at Chatelaine and avowed book fiend. She feels incomplete without a book somewhere on her person, will read just about anything (even the back of the cereal box, if there’s nothing else available) and usually dislikes book-to-movie adaptations (but continues to go see them).
Stacy: Hi ladies 🙂
Laurie: Hi there!
Alex: So, The Map of Time, eh?
Laurie: You sound so Canadian!
Stacy: Was that on purpose, Alex Laws??
Alex: Haha. ONLY in writing 😉
Laurie: We’ll be depending on you to tell us if this Spanish author’s depiction of England, albeit Victorian England, is accurate!
Alex: I actually meant it in the eyebrow-raising circus-master kind of theatrical way.
Laurie: That’s actually exactly how I felt reading the intro…
Stacy: All of the asides and dramatic “Welcome dear readers”? Me, too.
Alex: Yes, I really felt the tone of this book was very vaudeville-esque.
Laurie: Sit back and get ready for the ride!
Alex: It took me a while to get used to it but in the end I was quite absorbed by it.
Stacy: Or on the Part 1 title page, the “your emotion and astonishment are guaranteed”
Alex: That said, this is not a book to read in a hurry…”I’m going to tell you a bit about what I’m going to tell you.” It reminds you to enjoy reading as entertainment, not just for learning or for more details.
Laurie: It’s true. There’s a lot of telling. What took you a while to get used to? Was it that?
Stacy: That’s true — I didn’t even really think of it that way.
Alex: I was SO caught off guard the first time he broke that — what’s it called — the fourth wall… I think that means it worked though. Isn’t that what absurdist drama was all about? Palma had me exactly where he wanted me!
Stacy: I quite enjoyed the narrator breaking the fourth wall. It added a bit of whimsy and, I don’t know, satire almost? The narrator was a bit tongue in cheek, which meant that even when what was going on in the story was a bit absurd, it wasn’t too absurd. It could have been really cheesy, but instead, it worked.
Alex: I agree: There’s no way someone can write about a time machine without having a sense of humour about it. His voice really played up the fanfare of it.
Laurie: And who is he, that narrator? Being so obvious about knowing everything and picking and choosing where to start the story, titillating us.
Stacy: I think I know what it is — it’s a modern touch to break up the Victorian style of writing. We’re so much more sarcastic and less earnest now (or maybe that’s just me…???)
Laurie: It’s true! But despite that, I still got totally sucked in!!
Alex: I have no idea who he is but I feel like it will be revealed in an equally theatrical way.
Stacy: Haha, it better be theatrical, otherwise I’ll be very disappointed!
Laurie: He’s like the Wizard of Oz.
Alex: Exactly! The omniscient author, or narrator, rather. And I think it pays homage to the writing styles of the time…
Laurie: Or both! And the melodrama, too.
Stacy: Confession: I kind of like the narrator better than Andrew Harrington.
Alex: Although I was surprised not to find him too condescending. I love Andrew’s hopeless romanticism. In fact, that’s what got me hooked.
Laurie: I was going to ask you about what you thought about Andrew. I was a bit disappointed about his whole, “Oh poor, poor people,” but that he didn’t nothing to alleviate their suffering. But I guess that would be another book!!
Stacy: I found him sort of Hamlet-esque. Lots of introspection, not a lot of action. And very self-involved! Which was a problem, because I really didn’t like Hamlet.
Alex: I think that’s a theme though… his flaw is also making the reader question his over-dramatic passion. He is naturally undermined by his inability to help the poor — or the poor person he loves — despite his means. It makes me see him as, yeah, weak.
Stacy: AL, I think you’re right. And also, it’s probably pretty realistic. He might be “in love” with Marie Kelly, but he has no concept of how to help her (or even that he should, really).
Alex: But he is so unquestioning about it — then when he finally stands up to his dad, she dies.
Stacy: Which strikes me as realistic.
Laurie: How much did he really “love” her? But I think we are supposed to believe in his love, his passion.
Alex: So what does that say about the Victorian thoughts about adhering to the social boundaries that have been set?
Stacy: I was annoyed because I thought he was going to, well, man up. And instead, that opportunity for growth was taken from him.
Alex: Or at the very least, those boundaries and feelings towards them that Palma is representing.
Laurie: But even after she dies, he does nothing to help others, just pines away — another lost opportunity.
Stacy: I think we’re supposed to believe in his love for Marie, but it’s also a good point about Victorian social mores. That social strata are really separate, and there’s no real opportunity to climb
Laurie: Yes. We’re seeing this through a modern lens.
Alex: Are they really implying love can only work within your own class? Or are they saying, “This guy thinks he knows love, but what he’s driven to distraction by is actually infatuation”?
Stacy: I think it’s probably option B more than option A. And maybe that’s why it doesn’t work out — can’t work out, really.
Laurie: Apparently. I mean, he does imagine the scenario of Marie existing within his world and acknowledges it wouldn’t work. They would have to live outside society. But why not? Of course, there’s also the problem of her husband…
Stacy: Um, yeah. How awkward was that?! He spends the night with her and then passes her husband on his way home….Eek!
Laurie: No kidding! Poor man freezing in the hall while they have sex inside the room!
Alex: That was really skirted over. I didn’t feel awkward because the issue was so cast aside. “He just waited outside and was happy with the money.” What?!
Stacy: I also didn’t feel awkward, until I thought about it and was like, “What?!” Ha, exactly AL.
Laurie: As would most people if they were starving!!!
Alex: Again, I was sucked in, though: I didn’t like the husband. I was rooting for the rompers.
Stacy: Good one. SUCH a good one.
Alex: I always read for the sex, though, if I’m honest.
Stacy: It’s a good policy, I think. Unless it’s very poorly written sex. Then it’s just awkward.
Laurie: Now we know the truth!!!
Alex: So will the readers… it will be in my bio 😉
Laurie: And we know which books to pick in future!
Stacy: Alex has just doomed herself to a lifetime reviewing Harlequin novels.
Laurie: Anywaaaaaay….to get back to The Map of Time, what about the whole time travel thing?
Alex: That was my LEAST fave part, and HG Wells.
Stacy: Ha, okay we are such different readers AL, because that was the bit I wanted to read more about!
Alex: I’m not so much about the fantasy…
Stacy: Which I love.
Alex: …so I had to take a few deep breaths to get through it.
Stacy: It’s so interesting to see how that affects our reading. Did you lie back and think of England?! (Sorry! I couldn’t resist!)
Laurie: I loooove reading about sci fi and fantasy and concepts of time, which is astonishing to me.
Alex: It was bizarre to me — the real and the unreal all together so you can’t figure out what’s going on — but I guess that’s the point, and, seriously, HG Wells?
Laurie: Perfect! That’s the point and brilliance of sci fi and fantasy — anything’s possible! And that make the world amazing and wonderful and bearable at times.
Stacy: I love the real and unreal! It’s almost like magic realism — have you read any Isabelle Allende? I loved her House of the Spirits for that exact reason.
Alex: And we already know that other real literary figures will be making an appearance.
Stacy: Oh, and the Elephant Man (speaking of real figures making an appearance). That whole bit just broke my heart.
Laurie: OK, that was the best part, the Elephant Man. I cried.
Alex: I actually did love House of Spirits because it was amazingly well written, and I didn’t question it, I just went with it. Whereas this was more flip-flopping between real and surreal. But I did also love the Elephant Man part. He was described so lovingly, almost.
Stacy: Good writing can transcend genre. Elephant Man could have been another titillation, or just for shock value, so the choice to treat him as a person and not a freak was touching, and that’s the perfect way to say it.
Laurie: And I loved what HG learned from him: that will goes a long way towards achievement.
Alex: Such a huge depth of strength and emotion compared with this other guy who seems to have self-imposed his own pain.
Laurie: Yes! Suck it up and move on! (Despite the horror…).
Alex: I thought that was a great message. And I LOVED the basket.
Stacy: Me too!
Alex: This motif that I felt like I could touch…
Laurie: Although the stroking of it was a bit much.
Stacy: It was a little odd, yes.
Alex: I didn’t think so! I thought it was like he was going a little bit insane.
Stacy: And his wife filling it with stuff to make it useful! I think she was creeped out a little, too.
Alex: I often feel like that, so it was nice to feel that empathy that people do weird things when their minds are distracted.
Stacy: “Why is my husband stroking a basket incessantly?”
Laurie: It was his inspiration.
Stacy: That’s true — like an unconscious tick. Um, yes. It was. Although again, it was so skirted over that I had to think twice to realize what the implication was.
Alex: It was like a psychosis or something.
Stacy: You know, this is less and less endearing… poor HG.
Laurie: OK. I give that to you, AL, like little beach stones people carry in their pockets and rub to calm down or something…
Laurie: I think Palma does well. For me, he could just do less telling, but overall, well done!
Stacy: I agree — less telling would have been better. But that was mostly at the beginning for me. Towards the middle of the first part, I was sufficiently caught up in the plot/action. What did you think of Andrew’s “trip back in time” though??
Alex: I think less telling, less scientific detail, more loving. (Just kidding!)
Laurie: Sex, bring on the sex! (Also, just kidding!)
Laurie: It was touching, that he so wanted to speak to Marie, but couldn’t.
Alex: I did enjoy it more than I thought I would, but I really didn’t need as much detail about the time travel and holes and world where Big Ben was brought down. It was just a plot device to get us to HG Wells, and it took up about a third of the book!
Laurie: I’m curious to see where this is going now that this bit is over. And who is this Haggerty girl??
Stacy: I think it’ll come up again later, otherwise why would Palma spend so much time on it? What Haggerty girl? Did I miss something?
Laurie: He said something about: I could have started the story with Claire Haggerty…but I didn’t… And, of course, I’m already thinking: she’s a love interest for poor forlorn Andrew!
Alex: Oh yessss. I know, we can’t help ourselves…Love, love, love, all the time love.
Stacy: Oh, right, right. Well, he’ll need someone — Marie K. is a no go! And Alex likes the sex, so…
Alex: We shall see, my friends, we shall see. Or should I say, “Time will tell”?
Laurie: I was going to say, we’ll have to wait until next week to find out, but Alex worded it so much better! Till next Thursday and our discussion of Part 2!