3/21/17

The House of Months and Years, by Emma Trevayne, for Timeslip Tuesday

It's a bit of a spoiler to announce right off the bat that The House of Months and Years, by Emma Trevayne (Simon and Schuster, February 2017), is a book with time travel, but it's the sort of spoiler that might help you decide if its a book your interested in, and how else to review it for this week's Timeslip Tuesday?

10-year-old Amelia was happy with her family and her house and her best friend.  But when her aunt and uncle are killed, her parents pull up all her roots to move in with her three cousins-- two boys, one her age, one younger, and one baby girl.  The cousins' house is larger, and their lives of course had already been horribly disrupted, so that plan made sense to Amelia's parents.  And intellectually, Amelia can see the point.  Emotionally, however, she's a snarling mass of resentment (and her parents don't, in my own expert parenting opinion, spend enough time making sure she's ok, but of course they have the three bereaved children to look after...).

So Amelia is sore and cross.  Her cousins' house, however, is not without interest.  It's a calendar house, with all its architectural features tied to numbers related to time passing--the months, the days, the hours are reflected in its rooms, windows, and doors.  Even more extraordinary, it's original architect and inhabitant is still present, in a shadowy form of not quite corporal presence (though not a ghost).  And this occupant can travel through time, and is happy to take Amelia venturing to the past with him.  All he wants in exchange is for Amelia to be his apprentice....and Amelia, being disgruntled, finds the idea of being an immortal time traveler more than somewhat appealing.

But there are costs.  Horrible costs.  And there's a limit to how spoilery I'm willing to be so I won't say more.  It's this emotionally charged dilemma that is at the heart of the book, and which tilts it almost toward horror in a truly gripping rush toward the ending.

Though I was gripped by the story, and the pages turned, it didn't truly captivate me. For one thing, the time travel is of a tourist sort of variety.  The people in the past are alive around them, but don't seem them.  So it's not uninteresting, but not emotionally gripping.  The tension comes not from the visits to the past themselves, nor even from excursions to a sort of "other place"frequented by the group of time-travelers to which Amelia's guide belongs (though it is a fascinating scenario) but from within Amelia.  Though Amelia's decision about becoming a time traveler herself takes center stage at the end, the tension in the book begins with her refusal to accept her new situation living in her cousins' home with them as part of her immediate family.  And though I sympathize, it's hard to be all that sympathetic toward  her, because she really doesn't make much effort to be kind to her cousins or communicate with her parents.  This sulky unpleasantness of character is necessary for the plot to work, but diminished my enjoyment. 

So all in all, a well-written, gripping book with a beautifully memorable house that nevertheless didn't quite work for me personally.

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