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Monday, March 9, 2009

Time and Again - Jack Finney

A while back, someone (I think it was James Viscosi? Carl?) recommended that I read Time and Again by Jack Finney. I had recently been thinking about it since it's sorta sci-fi-ish and it takes place in New York City. And while doing laundry in our apartment's basement, I browsed our communal bookshelves...and viola...there it was! How lucky is that? The edition I have is the one on the left...I couldn't find a bigger image, sorry!

The premise is that time travel IS possible. At every given moment, every moment in time is going on. The only thing that is connecting a person to his/her time is the belief that you are where you are. So an experiment is set up. Put a person in an environment where he/she starts to believe they are in a certain time period.

That's what happens to our main character Si Morely. He's an illustrator that the government chose to participate in this experiment. For personal reasons, Si chooses to go back in time to New York City, 1882. They recreate the feeling of the time period by giving him an apartment in the historic Dakota building. In 1882, the said apartment is vacant. He dresses the part, thinks, the part, even his view to Central Park is unobstructed by anything modern. And it works!

The reason Si wants to step back to 1882, is because his girlfriend Kate has a mysterious letter dated in 1882 which was sent to Andrew Carmody, who was associated with President Grover Cleveland. This letter eventually let to Andrew Carmody's suicide. His wife burnt part of the letter, so the only known thing is that there was a meeting which discussed marble and Andrew Carmody wrote that the letter caused "the destruction by fire of the entire World". How mysterious!

Si steps back in time, to witness the mailing of the letter and the following meeting. He also lodges with an interesting group of characters later on in the story and falls in love with one young lady.

So we've got time travel, historic New York, a love story, a mysterious letter and rendezvous...just a fun book.

AND the fun part, since Si's an illustrator, throughout the book there are drawing Si made which shows the everyday life and times in historic New York. It's fun to see the lack of huge skyscrapers, small farms interspersed where the upper East side now is, and just the feel of New York City in the late 1800s.

I just noticed that there's a sequel called From Time to Time. Hmmm...I'll have to check that one out too.

Has anyone read these books and what did you think?

Here's some alternate covers:


  1. I loved Time and Again! :) Glad to hear you enjoyed it too!

    I own From Time to Time, but I haven't read it yet. It's been a little while since I've read Time and Again, so I feel like I should re-read that before reading the sequel.

  2. I don't think it was me -- I haven't read this one yet. It sounds very interesting though!

    I might have recommended The Time Traveler's Wife ... I love that book.

  3. Your top "alternate cover" is the one I have.

    I really liked seeing historical New York thru contemporary eyes. I like that Finney didn't make a big deal about *how* Si returned to the past (it was easy to invoke suspension of disbelief and simply enjoy the novel).

  4. It might have been me, I certainly push this book on occasion, when the chance arises. It is a wonderful, wonderful story. I was given it by one of my close friends right after he moved to NYC. It was after my first or second visit and reading it after having wandered around the city made it even more special. I have always loved The Dakota, and its prominence in this book is also one of the reasons I enjoy it. Beyond that the story is great. A must read.

    I would also recommend reading The Little Book by Seldon Edwards. It is weird for me to recommend a book I have yet to read, but I have very trusted friends who have read it and raved about it and looking at the book and its description it is, at the very least, a spiritual brother to Time and Again.


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