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!