Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Time Slip and Time Travel

I have been fascinated by time slip and time travel books ever since I first read The House on the Strand by Daphne Du Maurier, where the hero of the novel agrees to experiment with a drug made by a friend, which makes his mind travel back to the 14th century while leaving his body in the present.  This was an intriguing concept and from then on, I was on the lookout for similar books (although it took me years to find one!)

Du Maurier’s story was great, but what really got me hooked on the time slip genre was The Lady of Hay by Barbara Erskine, a truly ground-breaking novel.  The heroine of this story tries to debunk theories of past-life regression, but ends up reliving the experiences of a woman who was alive during the time of King John, in an all too vivid fashion.  I literally couldn’t put this book down and when later I started writing myself, this was the kind of book I wanted to write.  Other stories, such as A.S. Byatt’s Possession and Rachel Hore’s The Glass Painter’s Daughter, only reaffirmed my love of this genre and showed that even more literary authors liked the concept as well (as you probably know, Possession won the Booker Prize!).

This type of writing seems to me to make history come alive in a more personal way, because the protagonists in the present are in some way engaged with people of the past.  In a time slip novel (where there are two strands of a story that are somehow connected, but the characters in the present don’t actually travel to the past), this can be achieved in many different ways – through past-life regression, drugs, research, diaries or ghostly phenomena.  The same goes for time travel stories (where people from the present somehow end up in the past) and I’m constantly amazed at the various means authors devise in order to have their protagonists travel through time. 

As a reader, I find the time slip stories somehow more convincing because we know that actually travelling through time is not possible and in order to buy into that theory, we have to suspend our disbelief much more.  Although the existence of ghosts or multiple lives have never been proven either, for me those notions are more plausible and easier to believe.  That’s not to say I don’t enjoy time travel stories as well – I do, very much so!  But I see them as pure fantasy, whereas with time slips there is an element of “it could perhaps be true”.  Well, I’d like to think so anyway!

Which is perhaps why I have finally achieved my goal and written a time slip story myself – The Silent Touch of Shadows will be published on 7th July this year and here is a short blurb:-

What will it take to put the past to rest?

Professional genealogist Melissa Grantham receives an invitation to visit her family’s ancestral home, Ashleigh Manor. From the moment she arrives, life-like dreams and visions haunt her. The spiritual connection to a medieval young woman and her forbidden lover have her questioning her sanity, but Melissa is determined to solve the mystery.

Jake Precy, owner of a nearby cottage, has disturbing dreams too, but it’s not until he meets Melissa that they begin to make sense. He hires her to research his family’s history, unaware their lives are already entwined. Is the mutual attraction real or the result of ghostly interference?

A haunting love story set partly in the present and partly in fifteenth century Kent.

Do time slip stories count as historical novels?  To me they do, because the make the past come alive in a different way, but I'd love to hear everyone else's view on this!



Melinda Hammond/Sarah Mallory said...

Great post, Christina. I like time slip novels, too. It's fantasy but great entertainment, and I think they count as historicals, as long as the history is accurate (or as accurate as regular "historical novels"... I have written a couple of books of my own with "ghostly" connections to the past and really enjoyed the journey. Will look out for your new book.

Christina Courtenay said...

Thanks Melinda - I've got one of yours on my TBR pile :)

Jane Odiwe said...

I've just finished a timeslip novel - like you, I've always loved them. Your new book sounds fascinating-looking forward to reading it!

Christina Courtenay said...

Thank you, Jane - there is something special about time slip novels, isn't there! Just love them :)

Liz Harris said...

Your new novel sounds fascinating, Christina. I can't wait to read it.

Liz X

Christina said...

Many thanks, Liz - ditto yours! :)

Isabelle Goddard said...

It was good to read your post on time slip novels, Christina, as sometimes I think they can get forgotten in the mass of historical novels that are published. For me, they are always historical as long as the past is portrayed authentically.

I love all kinds of time slips: novels like The Lady of Hay where the heroine actually lives the past as well as the present and books like Possession which tell parallel stories from different time periods.

I loved A.S. Byatt's book and tried to do something similar - though not as literary! - in Walking Through Glass, using the Great Exhibition as my setting. Doing the research for it was fascinating - and hopefully,it turned out authentic!

Nicola Cornick said...

I am looking forward to your book very much, Christina! Can't wait, in fact. I love time slip and time travel books and can never find enough of them. It's great that publishers are showing more of an interest in them again. It was Alison Uttley's a Traveller in Time that started me reading the time travel genre and I too loved the House on the Strand. I love the time travel elements in Susanna Kearsley's books as well and Ferney by James Long is an amazing book.

Christina Courtenay said...

Thank you Isabelle - have put "Walking Through Glass" on my TBR pile, it sounds great!

And thanks Nicola! I too love Susanna Kearsley's novels, they are absolutely brilliant! And although I wasn't as keen on "Ferney", I loved James Long's second novel "Silence and Shadows", another time slip.

Dating Free Sites said...

I guess the silent touch of shadows is a very romantic book. will it impress a girl of 20?) would u be so kind to advise me, guys)

Gollygilly said...

Christina, I am a Huge fan of Time Slip novels (which I definitely consider Historical Fiction), especially Barbara Erskine and Susanna Kearsley.
I am not too fond of those that centre around a romance such as the time travellers wife. I like the story to be believable, interesting and absorbing, so I feel as if I am there. Like you, one of my first was the House on Strand. But another one I love is FITZEMPRESS by Diana Norman. She was one of my favourite historical writers who past away a year ago. I have mentioned your book on the Barbara Erskine Book Club on Facebook as the ladies there are always looking for similar books! I look forward to reading you book!

Gollygilly said...

Sorry, the full name of the book is FITZEMPRESS' LAW by Diana Norman. It is an older book and like most of her historical novels it is hard to get. But it is worth the try.

Carole said...

If your interested to join the above mentioned Book Group on Facebook your more than welcome.
We are happy to welcome you to our group. This is where you can connect with people who have the same interest in books. We share recommendations and discuss our love of books, have laughs, share pictures, support each other's views. If you have time, please feel free to read past posts, join in discussions and share with us your favourite books and above all, have fun!

Just click on the link below:

Carole said...

Re: my previous comment refers.
The name of the FB group mentioned above is:
Historical and Timeslip Novels Book Club

If Christina and readers are interested.