A Traveller in Time - Book Review
I recently made a magical discovery. I found the book that changed my life when I was seven years old.
I know I was seven because it was given to me as a birthday present. Back then children's books seem to be 'older' somehow.
Much more adult that the children's books of today. I remember that day well. I unwrapped the book with great excitement. If I didn't get a book for my birthday or Christmas I was so disappointed.
But this day was magical. It was a hot sunny day in June, the sun was shining as I grabbed my new book and headed outdoors to sit under the tree.
That's how amazing this moment in time was.
So what was it that changed my life? How could a book make such a difference?
A Traveller/Traveler in Time.
The book was called a Traveller in Time. What was special about it? Well for starters it got me on the trail of loving time travel and anything to do with it.
Up until that point I had never heard of such a thing, but I had loved History since I was a tiny child, goodness knows why! And my main love was the 16th Century. Then along came this amazing Time Travel book with history thrown in and voila' that was it!
All because of this little paperback book I have grown up studying history, loving physics and watching anything and everything to do with astronomy, atoms and Space! Wow, all because of a book? They say words can change a world, and boy it did that!
I searched for over 40 years to try and find this book as I grew up. Nothing. Then about 6 months ago I went into a brand new book store in my town and there, on the shelf sat A Traveller in Time! Now I wasn't sure at first if that was the right one, purely because I didn't remember the title.
But the second I saw it I knew! I checked the date it was written. Yes! 1939. And the name of the author. Alison Uttley.
I Found it! I was so excited! Since then I have read it three times! So what's so special?
“I lifted the latch and stepped down the little stairway into the corridor of time.” Of Mary Queen of Scots she says;
“she was alive, but she was dead, and always she was immortal.” “It was neither dream, nor sleep, this journey I had taken, but a voyage backward through the ether.”
The Story of Penelope and the Babington's
First of all the words are so magical. Each and every page is like honey dipped in sunlight. Alison wrote in a way that we would all love to write.
The way she describes the farmhouse with its flaming fireplace. The kitchen with the smell of apple pies, and the lovely warmth of Penelope's uncle Barnabas. Then there was the Babington family who had lived in Thackers farmhouse over four hundred years before.
The story centre's around Penelope Taberner Cameron, who lives in London. She is rather a sickly girl so her parents decide to send her, her sister Alison and brother Ian to their mother's aunt Tissie and uncle Barnabas who live deep in the countryside in a lovely farmhouse named Thackers.
When they arrive they are met by aunt Tissie and Uncle Barnabas, and are quickly swept up into their arms, given a great big smacking kiss on their cheeks and taken to their bedrooms to get changed and then come down for supper.
The house is warm and friendly with candles and shadows, the hearth ablaze with colour and warmth. But as Penelope starts to feel at home she is aware of some other time overlapping her own.
At first the shadows look as though they are moving, and soon she starts to hear music coming from the church, and when she looks there is nobody there.
The first glimpse she gets of the Babington family is when she opens a door that she hasn't seen before. And there before her are three ladies wearing long dresses in the Elizabethan style. They are sitting round a table playing a game with ivory counters.
Penelope is startled and says, sorry quickly before they have a chance to speak.
. “They were young and pretty. Their dresses were made of stiff brocade and their pointed bodices were embroidered with tiny flowers. On their heads they wore little lace caps. Each wore a narrow lace tucker around her neck, and rings glittered on white hands.”
What Penelope doesn't know at this point is that she has fallen into the 16th Century and straight into the Babington plot to help Mary Queen of Scots escape from her prison and flee to France!
As time goes on Penelope slips more and more into the past where she meets Anthony Babington who is one of the leading characters in the plot to free Queen Mary of Scotland and kill Elizabeth 1st.
Penelope realizes that things are going to go wrong, but the more she tries to remember, the less she can see of the future and Anthony Babingtons downfall. It seems as though a mist clouds her mind when she tries to think.
She becomes more and more embroiled in the past, beginning to hate it when the present takes over. And she has another reason for loving the 16th Century.
Frances Babington. The brother of Anthony has taken a fancy to Penelope and the share their first kiss.
. “I didn’t want to lose this possession of mine, which gave me the power of passing into other layers of time, to share the lives and loves of those who dwelt here. I went out of the room with aching heart….
This magical book was originally written for children, but the style of writing is of its time, which gives it that added sparkle for adults. In fact as an adult I believe I enjoyed it more. There are so many poignant phrases and scenes in the book.
I particularly love the bit where Penelope is so excited to go and visit the old castle where Mary Queen of Scots is being kept prisoner. In her own time period they set off only for Penelope to be so disappointed because the old place is now only a ruin.
Sneaking out the kitchen door of the adjoining cottage she creeps across and suddenly sees Mary Queen of Scots through a window. She then realizes that she has in fact stepped back in time once again!
The more Penelope stays in the past the more she tries to change the outcome. Anthony Babington and Frances are both caught up in the Mary Queen of Scots conspiracy, and however hard she tries Penelope cannot quite remember what is going to happen.As the past beginnings to run its course Penelope has to make a choice. Leave or stay?
One of the most iconic tunes of the 16th Century was Greensleeves written by Henry VIII for his then lady friend Anne Boleyn. This tune is woven throughout the story, and is prominent in the new DVD A Traveller in Time. So I thought it was only fair to add it here. Enjoy!
We hear a lot about Enid Blyton, but for some reason the name Alison Uttley is pretty much unknown.
Which is strange as she wrote over 100 books for children and adults. She is mainly known for her little grey rabbit and Sam pig books.
Alison was born December 17 1884 and died May 7 1976.
She was born Alice Taylor and lived at Castle Top Farm in Cromford Derbyshire England.
You can read more about her here: The Alison Uttley Society.
Alison went on to write lots of books but never enjoyed the same amount of fame as Enid Blyton which was such a shame. In fact at one stage they lived near each other and as history tells it, they were never very 'fond' of each other!
A Traveller in Time was serialized back in 1978 and has recently been released on DVD at Amazon.
In a sense this is a time travel story within another time travel story. It was written in 1939 and set in 1934 when the world was slower and things were more peaceful, for a while at least. The reader gets to see the countryside and pace of life in the 30's as well as the 1500's.
Both times have sadly gone now, and with the hustle and bustle of the modern world its lovely to step back and enjoy both of these long forgotten times.
Questions & Answers
© 2016 Nell Rose