Out of Time

Written by Loretta Livingstone
Review by Jo Barton

During a visit in May 2006 to the ancient Sparnstow Abbey, Marion rests in the shade of an old tree whilst her two daughters, Chloe and Shannon, scamper around the ancient historical site. What then follows is a cleverly contrived time travel story, which sees Marion transported back in time to the spring of 1191, when the Abbey was a bustling and thriving community.

Dual time narratives can sometimes seem a little clumsy, but not so with this story, which, with clever dialogue, manages to be convincing of both time and place. The medieval world is brought to life, and even though the plot seems a little improbable – I won’t give away why I thought that, as it would spoil the story – but it worked because the writing was so convincing. It is always a difficult concept to make travelling through time seem believable, but Marion’s time travel experience was done with a lovely realism which is all too often lacking in time slip stories.

The well-defined chapters clearly show where the story sits chronologically, and the modern day settings are clearly different, both in terms of dialogue and in the explanation of events. The story is succinct, coming in at just about two hundred pages, and my first thought was that it could have been longer, but then on reflection, I think that all had been said and done, and the story was allowed to wrap up nicely.

The book is professionally finished to a high standard. The author clearly loves writing and is skilled in the art of storytelling. It is not packed with historical detail and there are a few pedantic quibbles about plausibility – but that’s what makes fiction into fiction, and an enjoyable read, whether it is truth or imagination is immaterial. I enjoyed it – a light, easy read.