This book had a premise that was so attractive for someone like me who loves going to gigs and has missed it so much over the last eighteen months. My gig-going best friend and me often talk about which were our favourites, those breakthrough gigs that made your favourite band or those gigs that just captured the zeitgeist. The gig I went to that was a real cultural moment was at Alexandra Palace in 1994; Blur with Pulp as supporting artists. It was a real Britpop landmark and during Song 2, being pummelled and pushed about in the pit at the front I fainted and had to be carried out of the crowd. I’ve been lucky enough to see most of my favourites – Muse, Manic Street Preachers, The Killers, Depeche Mode, U2, Florence and the Machine- but if I did invent a time machine and could go back in time to any gig, it would be The Stone Roses 1989/90. They’re my band that got away. Everyone has one and sometimes we only see their importance in hindsight and simply wish we could have been there.
This is what happens to Caroline Tangent. Her music loving husband Jon, builds a time machine in his basement workshop. One surprising day he whisks her away to a controversial music performance – Kanye West at Glastonbury, 2015. She has on her gardening clothes, so luckily she’s pretty much dressed for a muddy field in Somerset. He didn’t choose the gig because they were huge fans of Kanye, but because it’s an important moment in music history, when there was an outcry over the direction Glastonbury was taking, considering it had always been dominated by more rock or indie groups than anything else. Their second trip is more complicated. Greenwich Village NYC, 1966. The preparation almost heightens their anticipation for the gig. Jon keeps the artist a secret, but they have to scour eBay for vintage clothing and work out how to get round the need for 1960s currency. Although, as Jon jokes, the exchange rate is pretty good. As they settle in a café, Caroline doesn’t recognise the musician playing, but they soon finish their set and on walks a young man with a guitar. It takes a moment because his name is different, but as soon as she realises who it is her excitement bubbles over. That’s Jimi Hendrix!
I found the way the writer created Jon and Caroline’s world really different for such a sci-fi concept. He didn’t treat it like sci-fi, but more like an exploration of long term relationships, friendship and all human life. We get to know their long term friends who they meet for dinner once a month. These people are relatable, and not perfect by any means. He creates tension between Jon and Andrew, who were producing copies of old concert tickets and posters to sell online as the real thing. They’re three dimensional and we see all their good and bad points. Caroline and Jon have managed to keep their time travel a secret so far. She wanted to tell their friends and share his incredible invention, but Jon is adamant it has to be just the two of them. He explains that the secret is just too big, look at how much trouble Caroline is having keeping it to herself? He knows their friends and one of them would be bound to tell someone outside their circle. However adamant he is, there are moments when they’re all together that he sails close to the wind.
I felt unsure about Jon early on, the fact that he’s in this seemingly fractious relationship with Andrew and has produced false memorabilia before made me question his character. I thought their reasons for continuing to visit the past might be different and I didn’t always like the way he treated Caroline. At first I just thought he was very controlled – I know my other half and if he’d developed the capability to build a time machine in his workshop he wouldn’t have been able to keep it to himself. Jon seemed to like having the secret, being superior and even where there were clashes he’d caused, holding himself above the argument. As time went on I noted he was gaslighting Caroline too, letting things go wrong and insinuating she was to blame, or that something she knew had happened, hadn’t happened at all. I was so glad she had such a strong friendship with Bree for support. I felt sad for her, because although she is an emotionally intelligent woman, her love for her husband has made her blind to who he really is.
Of course we all know that the cardinal rule of time travel is not to change anything. Jon goes into great detail about the about chaos theory – the idea that events are interlinked so intricately that it might only take a butterfly flapping its wings on one side of the world to cause a tsunami somewhere else. No matter how small the change in the past, it could have a seismic effect on their future. As much as they want it to be fun and all about the music, past traumas do start to haunt them. Their world could be about to turn upside down because one of them makes a terrible decision. I don’t want to reveal any more, just that this is a time travel novel that is more about the emotional journey of the people involved, than it is about the destinations. I did love the destinations though, and how the author made me feel I was there in 1960s NYC, or 1930s Paris. I think it would be great to create a Spotify playlist alongside the book so readers can fully immerse themselves in the music. The best way I can describe the novel is to say it’s sci-fi with a very big heart. Sometimes the most important and life changing places we travel are within ourselves.
Meet The Author
Ivan D Wainewright lives in Kent (England) with his partner, Sarah and their slightly neurotic rescue Staffie, Remi. Before moving to Kent, he lived in North London, Leeds and Singapore. When not writing, he can be found watching (and occasionally) playing football, running, listening to music from Chumbawamba to Led Zeppelin, arguing over politics and trying to cook. He has been an independent IT consultant for many years, working solely with charities and not-for-profit organisations.
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