Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sheldon, Dyan (2008). The Difficult Job of Keeping Time. London, Walker Books.

This is a rather nice time travel fantasy in which a town's old church is about to be obliterated by re-development. One of the things I liked about it is that while Good = preservation and Evil = obliteration of memory, one of the issues is that the redevelopment will not benefit locals but only marginalise them. Of the two protagonists, one is a refugee boy settled in the town, the other the child of a not very reliable single mother with a drink problem. As far as there is a metaphoric arc, it's that they learn to draw on their own resources.

Kiki and Trish meet a lady, of middle age, who sends them back into the past to reclaim some documents. The lady is an avatar, as is her opponent. Both of them will be born, again and again in different forms to face off against each other (each body lives its natural life unless terminated, so killing one's opponent is not always the right way to go, the lady, for example, has in a previous incarnation been locked inb a mental hospital and drugged, to keep her out of play). There is a hint that these are old gods in an old game.

The nineteenth century drawn here is reasonably realistic, with child labour portrayed as just one of those things: all the shock is in Kiki and Trish's experience of it. No one is shown as especially callous, just having different values.

I liked the book a great deal, for its combination of the nicely drawn present, and protagonists with genuine ingenuity.