The launching premise of this book is that Andrew Harrington in 1896 wishes to turn back time to rescue his lover from Jack the Ripper in 1888. His cousin enlists the help of H.G Wells, the famous author of The Time Machine, and sets in progress a series of dramatic changes for Wells. Meanwhile, the life of Claire Haggerty, a woman unimpressed by her role in Victorian society, converges with that of the mysterious Captain and then, yet again, Wells. Translated from Spanish by Nick Caistor, the book won the University of Seville prize for literature in 2008.
Firstly, I think the most important thing to say about this book is that it is in no way boring. There are twists, expected and more unexpected, and by the finale you're expecting Palma to pull another rabbit out of the hat - which he duly does. The process of reading this and being swept along with the tale was thrilling, particularly when I just enjoyed the ride and stopped trying to second-guess everything. In terms of story-telling, this book is excellent.
I was also impressed by the creation of H.G Wells as a character. Sometimes putting historical figures into fiction backfires because there is a preconception about them. However, the way Wells is portrayed is both realistic and enjoyable to behold. I found him to be utterly engaging and thoroughly believable, very cleverly written on Palma's part.
The novel made Victorian England less stuffy. I'm leaving that out there for you to decide whether it's a good thing or not. I think it left me feeling disorientated, as did the frequent intrusions of a narrator intent on not telling you anything of value. However, neither of these things spoiled my enjoyment of the book. I might be a lover of stuffy Victorianism but suspending my disbelief for a little while was easy and ultimately resulted in me liking the book very much.
I suppose the prevailing theme of this book is truth. Who offers truth? Why do they offer it? What does the truth say about those people who seek to keep it hidden? It also places a little moral puzzle at the foot of the reader. As the cover asks, 'would you alter time to mend a broken heart'? Would you change time to alter anything?
The Map of Time will be released in June 2011.