Started Reading: 14 Jan. 2019
Finished Reading: 25 Jan 2019
Read it here: Somewhere in Time
This book, as I knew that it would, wrenched my heart, and squeezed all emotion from it.
It also was originally titled Bid Time Return. This is a much better title in my opinion. Richard Matheson, if you read this — I love your work —, please return it to this title.
It is hard to describe how this novel made me feel in a coherent way. I will probably edit- re-edit, delete, and rewrite this post quite often until publication.
This is a romance novel, first, and foremost. It is not a Romance novel, but it is definitely a romance. A man travels back in time to be with the woman with whom he fell in love 75 years after the fact. That is the plot, and as such, the romance furthers the plot, and therefore this is a romance.
I loved every word of it.
Even in its problematic (it was written in the 1970s) treatment of women, I find it redeeming — says a man in 2019 —. The first three quarters are filled with tropes of a lovesick man who wishes to woo this woman. I got through it mainly because I am a sap, and I love Jane Seymour (Lady Jane Serymour? She has an O.B.E.; however, I am unfamiliar with the titles as I am but a lowly American) who played in the film version. In the last quarter, it drops a bombshell.
Elise McKenna is an early suffragette, and feminist!
She espouses this monologue on the life of being a female artist in a man’s world. I highly recommend reading the book for this section. I am going to look into extract laws within copyright to see if I can post it here. Though I may — or may not — post it here, I highly recommend the book as the context needs to be felt.
Actually, that is a good way of describing the book: it is a novel that is felt.
Classical music is a major backdrop to the story, and composers’ names are thrown left, and right especially at the beginning. Having said that, Mahler plays an important role. Starting at the end of the first few chapters, I began reading with Mahler in the background. Such an immersion — besides being called ‘extra’ by my loving boyfriend — caused the world of the novel to supersede our own. I will do this with every book that I can from now on.
On the craft side, this book is written with the possibility of an untrustworthy narrator. I feel conflicted about such narrations. I want to like them as it makes it more of a story told orally — whence all stories began —, but as a person of post-modern age, I feel that the narrator should be separate, and objective. Richard Collier is anything but objective. The novel, therefore, presents the questions: should the reader believe him, does the reader believe him, and what does that mean if he be lying, or if he be telling the truth?
Should the reader believe him? Should is the important modal here. I think that the reader should believe Richard Collier because he has nothing to lose. He is a man who has lost his connection to his old way of life due to unforeseen circumstances. He has nothing to gain from lying, and nothing to lost from telling the truth.
Does the reader (in this case, I) believe him? I do. I think that he went backwards in time, and met his soulmate. Pulling outside information into the discussion the author, Richard Matheson, said that this book is about a love that transcends time. This, to me, means that Richard did move out of time. There was a cost. There was definitely a cost. He did it, nonetheless.
What does that mean if he, Richard Collier, be lying? If he lie, Richard Collier is making a last-ditch effort to assert his importance on the world. This could be the case as artists tend to fear death in a specific way than others. Artists tend to want to leave a mark on the world, and not necessarily live forever. This could be Mr. Collier’s way of leaving a mark on the world. He is the one man to travel backwards willingly.
What does that mean if he be telling the truth? If he tell the truth, Richard Collier has exposed his soul to the rest of humanity. He also broke his own heart. That is beyond beauty. He, also, made a believer — if a reluctant one — out of his brother. The afterword is probably the most tear-filled part for me. His brother describes how this vibrant artist withered in a death-bed.
Side notes: Richard Matheson sneaked his own first name into the story, and I did not realise until writing this post. Good on you, Mr. Matheson. He, also, did his research. He mentions Man and Time by J.B. Priestley. I will have to read this…after the challenge. I have plenty on my plate right now, but this book has to be amazing.
Personal note: I watched this film when I was young, and this form of time travelling is my head-canon one. I am writing a short story/novella about time travelling, and timeslips: this story influenced it a lot. Thank you, Mr. Matheson.
In short, grab a sherry, or a bottle of wine, and sit down to read a tragically beautiful (or, beautifully tragic) love story that transcends time, and lives outside all expectations whilst using tropes that we all have read.
Be safe, and, for each one’s sake, be loved.
-J.A. Victor Wilson