Reading: Somewhere in Time

Reading: Somewhere in Time

Published in 1975 under the title Bid Time Return, the novel that inspired the 1980 adaptation known as Somewhere in Time caused all subsequent publications to be renamed.

I’ve always loved the film, but I’d never read the book. After reading Time and Again by Jack Finney (1970), in which the narrator accomplishes time travel through self-hypnosis, I wondered if that was the story that had inspired the film. Instead, I discovered there was a different novel, published five years later, that was made into the well-known film starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour.

As the time travel portion of both novels is set in my era of interest (TaA in 1882, SiT in 1896), I naturally adored them immensely for that reason. Time travel has always intrigued me (my favorite novel of all time is To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis) and perhaps some day I will write my own. Believe me, I’m always jotting notes on ideas for such a thing. 😉

What struck me most while reading, however, were two things.

The first, was the format of the novel itself. There are no chapters, and it is instead divided into two parts. Part One is a transcript of dictation by the narrator, Richard Collier, which made listening to the audiobook, rather than reading the book in print, all the more realistic. Interspersed within these dictations are comments by Richard’s brother, who “published his manuscript after his death” (much like in Princess Bride where there is a fourth wall broken to explain what’s been trimmed and cut from the “original” MS). Part Two is a collection of Richard’s notes from while he was in 1896. I’ll say no more as there may yet be those who haven’t finished the book or movie…

This reminded me of the format of my book, The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick Taker, which has no chapter divisions in order to quickly move the reader from one POV to another.

The second aspect of Somewhere in Time that struck me was the portion where Richard begins researching the 19th century actress Elise McKenna and her career. It all begins when he finds her photograph in a historical display and is so captivated by it he must learn all there is to know about the woman, while falling in love with her.

(In fact, the story behind the novel is that this is based on a real circumstance that happened to the author, Richard Matheson, when he visited the real hotel depicted in the novel, The Coronado in San Diego. Further research took me to this rather interesting link about the historical actress, Maude Adams, who inspired the character of Elise McKenna.)

The reason this struck me was because of the parallels to what happened to me to inspire the writing of my book, A Woman’s Intuitions, about Anna Katharine Green. When I discovered this forgotten female author, and uncovered just how much she is to thank for mystery fiction and the serial detectives we know and love today, I fell in love. The further I fell down the rabbit hole of research, the more I couldn’t believe so little has been written about her.

The same is felt by Richard Collier in Somewhere in Time. He learns that Miss McKenna was a recluse later in life, and that her acting career took off after something occurred in 1896. It is his curiosity about what caused this that drives him to learn more and to eventually travel through time to learn the truth.

Although I admit I have not traveled through time, writing an historical fiction novel about Anna Katharine Green felt very similar. I became so immersed in her writing and life that I felt like I knew her, like we were kindred spirits across time and space. I, too, came up with a reason for her taking six years to write The Leavenworth Case, her first mystery novel, and why she didn’t marry until the “ripe old age” (according to 1870s’ standards) of thirty-eight.

I’m afraid I haven’t published either of my novels, as yet, but follow me here and you’ll be the first to know! In the meantime, I hope you’ll take the time to find a copy of Somewhere in Time, and allow yourself to fall in love with a beautiful story of love that knows no bounds—not even those of time itself.

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