The provenance of a book is not a new premise in literature, but Ian McDonald’s novella Time Was takes it in a wholly new and fascinating direction. Emmett is niche bookseller specializing in books of the Second World War. At the closing of a famous book store in London, he finds a slim book of poetry with a love letter hidden away inside. He quickly sells the book, but keeps the letter.
Tom the rhymer meets Ben the boffin and fall in love at the advent of WW2. Ben is brought to a small coastal town to work on a highly classified experiment for the war effort, and Tom is a local whose head is lost in verse. The results of their relationship and the experiments are intertwined in a story that reaches Emmett in contemporary London and beyond.
McDonald’s writes sentences woven out of affection and care, of his subject and the words themselves. His paragraphs held time on the page, and even though I desperately wanted to find out what happened, I had to tell myself to slow down and enjoy.
Please read Time Was. A tale that values representation and “quantum-magical theory.” A great tribute to love and the word.
“Time was, time will be again…”
5 out of 5 stars.
Thank you to NetGalley, Mcmillan/ Tor, and Ian McDonald for the advanced copy for review.