Time and Again by Jack Finney

Time and Again by Jack Finney: Though the story is about time travel, this is not what one would commonly consider a science fiction novel. Simon Morley, a bored illustrator living in 1960s New York, joins a top secret government program that sends him back to 1882. Rather than your standard time travel machine, temporal distances are covered through self-hypnosis and a bunch of hand-waving involving vague references to Einstein. But never mind all that. Since the narrator is from modern times, his descriptions of New York of over a century ago emphasize the sorts of things historical fiction would not: the little differences in everyday life, the future locations of certain buildings, that kind of stuff. In terms of nostalgia, it’s simply wonderful, and I thoroughly enjoyed learning about life in the late 19th century. Unfortunately, at the end it becomes tiresomely preachy, obsessing over the “good old days” that, as any historian knows, never really existed. The loose ends are also a little too neatly tied up, but by and large the book is a fun look at how people really lived back in the day.

I listened to this on audiobook, then discovered the book has sketches and photographs. Perhaps if I’d looked at the paperback copy on my shelf I would have noticed that it was specifically listed as an “illustrated novel” but that’s what I get for not paying attention.

Note: this book was never made into a movie. That was Somewhere in Time by Richard Matheson. The confusion is understandable; both use self-hypnosis as a means of time travel, and both involve romance that spans the decades.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

  1. I think I would like this. It sounds fun and interesting even if the ending is not so great. thanks for your review.

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