9th Oct 2012
Time’s Echo by Pamela Hartshorne
Her vast experience, coupled with the fact that she has a PhD in Medieval History, gave me hope that Time’s Echo would be better than the cover suggests. It is a time-slip novel, with one narrative taking place in 1577 and the other in the modern day.
Hawise Aske lives in Elizabethan York, working as a maid for a prosperous merchant. She has few hopes for a good marriage, with no dowry and unusual looks, and is flattered when Francis Bewley takes an interest in her. However, when her master arranges her marriage to a fellow merchant, Ned Hilliard, Hawise finds that Francis is not going to let her go easily.
Grace Trewe has been moving from country to country, never staying in one place for too long, since being caught up in the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. When she comes home to the UK in order to sort out her late godmother’s things, she discovers that Lucy was more involved with Wicca than she had previously thought.
Shaken by dreams about a woman named Hawise being drowned, she is shocked to discover the woman’s name written on one of Lucy’s papers. Soon Grace is experiencing visions of sixteenth-century York and becomes increasingly unsure what Hawise wants from her.
I wanted to like this novel. I tend to dive into historical novels when I want the literary equivalent of a hot bubble bath, but this was more like a lukewarm shower. There were good points: Hawise was a sympathetic character and I enjoyed seeing her relationship with Ned develop. Her half-sister, Agnes, is suitably hideous as is Francis, although I think there are few people who harbour a grudge for quite as long as he seems to.
The principle problems with the novel, for me, arise with the character of Grace who I found irritating, two-dimensional and unlikeable. Her protestations about being a strong and independent woman are grating, especially when Hartshorne illustrated this independence by having Grace always creep home in the middle of the night after sex, because she ‘didn’t want to be tied down’.
There were also a few anachronisms which were at odds with Hartshorne’s background in historical research. For example, Hawise’s maid says “Dunno”, and Francis ‘hooks his fingers in the air to add sarcastic emphasis’, neither of which seem to have a ring of authenticity. These are particularly jarring due to the strong period details elsewhere in the Elizabethan sections.
I have seen some far more favourable reviews of Time’s Echo, so if it sounds like something that you’d like to discover for yourself, it’s out now. You can get it in paperback from Amazon, Foyles, or your local independent bookseller, or get the Kindle edition.
Recommended for: Those who want an easy read with some good, if inconsistent, period detail.