Sylvia Meyer, M.D.: Sometime, Somewhere

Written by John Coffey
Review by Kathryn Voight

In this quietly intriguing novel, Dr. Sylvia Meyer suddenly finds herself plucked from the 21st century and mysteriously transported to 19th-century Gower Street, London, where she is dropped unceremoniously at the doorstep of Erskine and Caroline Phelps, a gentle couple of moderate means. Sam Bullen, Caroline’s brother, has just returned from amassing great wealth and finding his fortune in India, after the debilitating misfortune of shipwreck and capture by pirates upon his return journey home. Sprung from pirate capture through the generous ransoming efforts of his sister and brother-in-law, Sam unexpectedly and unknowingly welcomes Sylvia into her adventure with London past. A quietly refined love story ensues, as Sylvia’s strength, intelligence, and adaptability are put to the test.

Sylvia discovers friendship in Father Dunston, a French priest and his sister, Marie, whose help with French refugees provides relief and support for the displaced and a new home in his parish for Sylvia. Father Dunston’s gracious living solution for Sylvia develops into an offer of teaching employment, after he witnesses her volunteered lessons for his schoolchildren whose teacher is out ill.  Finding herself useful in a new world solidifies Sylvia’s sense of belonging, as she explores old London, meets new acquaintances, and uses her knowledge of medicine, literature, and science to endear herself to intellectuals, scientists, artists and the wealthy of London’s dawning period of discovery.

John Coffey’s debut novel offers a peek into the sparkling newness of an old London, inviting the reader to inquire into themes of love and friendship, the glory of invention and creative endeavor in the science and literature of 19th century England. It explores gender roles, and the ‘what-if’ of time travel through the eyes of a 21st-century woman whose firm but gentle demeanor, quiet endurance and adaptability, and confident intellect speak power into women’s roles both then and now. An uplifting read for those that persevere.

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