by Daphne Du Maurier
Plot Summary:Dick Young is lent a house in Cornwall by his friend Professor Magnus Lane. During his stay he agrees to serve as a guinea pig for a new drug that Magnus has discovered in his scientific research.
When Dick samples Magnus's potion, he finds himself doing the impossible: traveling through time while staying in place, thrown all the way back into Medieval Cornwall. The concoction wear off after several hours, but its effects are intoxicating and Dick cannot resist his newfound powers. As his journeys increase, Dick begins to resent the days he must spend in the modern world, longing ever more fervently to get back into his world of centuries before, and the home of the beautiful Lady Isolda..
Review:Daphne du Maurier's novel on time travel and history was a particularly captivating read for me. Because of the time travel aspect obviously and the scientific approach to it, but also because I kind of think of it as watching a train wreck. Hear me out. It's because as I read more of it, the sense that things were going to end unhappily became more and more pronounced. The sense is hard to pinpoint, but seeing how unhappy Dick is with his real life, and the way he becomes obsessed with seeing lives that have nothing to do with him and which he can never participate in became gradually nervewracking. I didn't think he should keep trying to make visits to the Medieval past, but he was compelled to keep going.
It was interesting to read how Dick develops as a character. As a reader I felt very sympathetic with him and his uncertainty about his future. He seems to love his wife, but he also pushes her away in ways that at first seemed natural (she did seem kind of annoying) but then somewhere in the middle of the book, it seemed like maybe he was being unfair. I love that about Daphne du Maurier's writing - there is an unpredictability in her characters that keeps the suspense going. She can turn these characters around and make it completely believable.
The past that Dick finds himself in is just as compelling as Dick's present; there are many characters introduced and it does get a bit confusing in the beginning but all that exposition sorts itself out and the main players in the drama of the past becomes clearer. At first I did find Dick's attraction (if I can call it that) to Lady Isolda to be a little bit odd and a little too instantaneous, but after finishing the novel I think there is a reason to support why that was. Except that is just one of the things that is nebulous about the ending of this story. It's something the author does often I think - to give a chance for the reader to interpret the ending in their own way - which was a little disappointing because I wanted to have more answers.
Time travel in this story is very intriguing though. Dick's friend Magnus created a potion that caused your consciousness to travel into the past, but not your body, so that Dick was always trying to independently prove that he was not hallucinating and that what he was seeing had really happened. The idea that you can poke your head into the past is very appealing, and probably addicting as Dick finds out, and the idea that while he was in the past, anything could be happening to his body is another very suspenseful plot point.
This story is very well-written and intricately plotted and while it does take time to start up in the beginning, it becomes fascinating to visit the past with Dick and to read how his life becomes corrupted by the time travel.