The Map of Time by Felix J Palma

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The Map of Time by Felix J Palma

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Katie Pullen
Reviewed by Katie Pullen
Summary: A rich and mesmerising tale of romance, adventure and time travel, full of heroes, heroines and villains, all pulled together by the fictionalised and rather wonderful character of H. G. Wells. This is a book you can completely lose yourself in as you relish every page. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 528 Date: June 2011
Publisher: Harper Collins
ISBN: 978-0007344123

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Like a lot of readers I cannot resist a book with an immediate hook that draws you into the story quickly and in a seemingly effortless fashion. From the very first page of The Map of Time Felix Palma had me firmly in his grasp and continued to hold me there for the entirety of the novel. Not once did I become bored or distracted as I relished every word, page and chapter of this remarkable book.

The novel is structured into three parts and as part one begins Palma draws us in with the character of Andrew Harrington, a young man living in 1896, unable to cope with the loss of the woman he loves who died eight years ago at the hands of Jack the Ripper. In the opening chapter Andrew is planning his suicide and so, ever the curious reader, I found myself asking what had driven this man to contemplate such an act, why had he not been able to move on with his grief? Palma carefully weaves such a compulsive back story for Andrew that I was totally engaged with it and knew that I had stumbled across a remarkable piece of writing. I could not help but feel sorry for Andrew in his desperation and was excited when his cousin Charles suggests that time travel might be the answer.

Charles keenness to help his cousin leads the two of them to Gilliam Murray, the owner of Murray's Time Travel, a company offering trips to the year 2000, and unable to help them in the way Charles wants, suggests the two visit the author of The Time Machine, H.G Wells.

I am keen to not give everything away so shall move on to part two in which the story turns to Claire Haggerty. I found it quite a brave move to wait nearly 200 pages before introducing the next main character, with the focus solely on Andrew for the first part. Many authors would combine the two stories but keep them separated by chapters, so I was impressed that Palma has not done this and for me the book works incredibly well in this manner. I wondered if I would still enjoy the book once the narrative moved on to Claire as Andrew's story is so enjoyable, but I had nothing to fear as I found I was equally if not more captivated with the twists and turns that followed for Claire.

Claire is unhappy with living in 1896, the time just does not suit her and she is keen to visit the year 2000 promised by Murray's Time Travel leaflet and has fallen in love with the image of the mysterious Captain Shackleton, a man at the heart of the events witnessed by Murray's Time Travel expeditions. Claire is determined, yet incredibly naïve, and decides to hide away in the year 2000 never to return, determined to assist Shackleton with his quest, but as we all know the course of true love never did run smooth.

Like Andrew, Claire's fate becomes irrevocably intertwined with H.G Wells in ways that are both fantastic, unbelievable and yet totally believable, incredibly romantic, and all held together thanks to the main theme of time travel. Palma has an impressive grasp on time travel and presents it in such a way that is it never confusing or ridiculous. In fact it seems the most natural thing in the world.

The famous time travel author H.G Wells is the character that holds the book together, and I found him the most interesting and complex. I knew absolutely nothing about Wells before I read The Map of Time, and so particularly enjoyed Palma's history of Wells and the fleshing out of his character, as well as his own story within the book. Palma's writing throughout is so rich in detail and convincing that I did not doubt any of the facts he writes about Wells, and wanted so much to throw myself into this book and believe everything I was reading that at times I forgot that I was reading a novel.

There is definitely something about this book that you can truly lose yourself in which I think comes from the time travel theme which Palma writes about with such authority that I never doubted him. I love a good story and there are some fantastic adventures going on in this book that make you feel like you are really there alongside the characters, experiencing everything with them thanks to the rich detail that is never over the top. Palma is incredibly clever though as he wrong footed me several times, but never frustrated me and I actually feel slightly sad that I have finished this book now and will never be able to read it again for the first time, although reading and reviewing it has been a privilege and a pleasure. It's a must read for anyone wanting to be swept away to another time and I can promise there is much more to be discovered, enjoyed and savoured than I have revealed here.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further Reading Suggestion: For another book filled with magic and a fantastic story try Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, or for the modern classic on time travel try Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife.

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