Time and Regret by M.K. Tod – As I settled down to read this captivating novel, strains of “As Time Goes By” filled my mind. Throughout this sensitively written and heartrending book about love, loss and redemption, the author takes us on a journey between 1990’s New York and the French battle fields of the Great War. Traveling smoothly between time and place, the writing is evocative and compelling, and with two points of view between recently divorced Grace Hansen and her grandfather, who fought in the war, we are quickly enfolded in a tale of family intrigue and mystery.
Ms Tod uses contemporary diary entries and superbly researched historical detail to bring the horror of the battlefields of Flanders, the Somme and Ypres alive, witnessing the brutality and carnage of a war that defied all understanding. The character of Grace’s grandfather, Martin Devlin, evolves through his horrendous experiences, and as Grace traces his journey in an effort to unravel a mysterious puzzle he has left for her at his death, she begins to understand more of her own childhood and upbringing. Along the way, Ms Tod explores the worlds of art, travel, food and museums in a cultural feast that begs a comfortable armchair and a glass of wine to accompany the reader.
As Grace comes closer to solving the mystery of her grandfather’s diaries, the action picks up, and with quickening heart we work alongside her in a race against time to find the answers. Complemented by beautiful travel writing and a dash of romance in the form of an attractive French museum curator, Time and Regret is a hugely satisfying novel that is rich in detail with multiple layers and perfectly paced. I found it impossible to put down.
Opening Tales of Byzantium is like lifting the lid on a casket of jewelry – a cache of finely wrought works, each with its own allure. The writer has crafted three fictional pieces from scholarly research into a beautifully accessible collection of short stories that bring to life a little known and overlooked historical age. Her clear prose and eye for detail brings alive the palaces and intrigue, the battle-weary soldiers, and the conflicts and political drama of the time. I particularly enjoyed the growth of the characters in the first vignette – and would love to read this as a full-length historical fiction novel. There is an intense introduction to all the player which requires some concentration. However, once I was able to assign everyone to their rightful places, the story took over and is a fascinating reconstruction of a relationship that began as a political alliance and ended in true love.
The author’s notes at the end of the tales rounds out the perspective with clarity, and leaves us wanting more of this time and place. Ms. Stephenson has created a gem of a collection, and I look forward to reading more of her work.