Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Time and Again by Jack Finney

Time and Again by Jack Finney
Copyright 1970
This edition: 2014 by Touchstone - Fiction/Time travel
Source: Simon & Schuster

I've been a Jack Finney fan for most of my adult life and have read absolutely everything I've managed to acquire by him. Time and Again is time travel classic I read quite a while ago and I've always meant to reread it but just haven't gotten around to doing so. When I was asked to review a reprint with a fresh, pretty cover, I jumped right on the bandwagon. I don't need a new copy but I figured it was a good excuse to reread the book.  

Brief synopsis:

Simon Morley is an artist at an advertising agency in New York.  He's not thrilled with his job or his life but he considers it comfortable and adequate. When he's approached about joining a government experiment, he's hesitant. Then, he hears the details. He will move into New York City's historic Dakota building -- a building that dates back to the late 19th century -- where he'll dress in clothing appropriate to the year 1882 and use self-hypnosis to transport himself to the past.

Simon has a lovely girlfriend who runs a failing antique store and there's a mysterious letter in her possession. Because of this mystery, Simon decides he wants to go back to the day the letter was mailed and observe as it's posted. Will Simon succeed at traveling to the past? What will he find there?

My thoughts:

I recall thinking the pacing in Time and Again was slow when I read it long ago and, yep, I was right.  There's a lot of detail. Finney himself admitted to becoming a little over-enthusiastic while doing his research. The net result is a book that is believable in its detail but a little bit slow off the block because Finney spent a great deal of time on set-up, explaining the government program and how it works before Simon finally manages to travel back in time.

It's not a spoiler to say that Simon succeeds.  The book wouldn't have been a time travel classic had its protagonist not managed to travel through time, after all.  But, there the questions begin. Can one travel through time without causing any damage to the present timeline? When Simon returns again and again, and discovers that he is not only more content in the past but also finds himself drawn to one of the women in the boardinghouse where he lives during his travels, what will happen?

Highly recommended - Still a favorite after all these years. While it takes awhile for the story to really crank up, once Simon begins to get involved in the past, his experiences become utterly fascinating. I felt transported back to 1882 and imagined myself traveling along with Simon, dressed in a wine-colored gown with a big, feathered hat. Time and Again is that kind of book.  I remembered less than I thought I recalled about the book but my memory was accurate to the general storyline so it was fun revisiting and living through the experience of Time and Again a second time. I absolutely love the way the story ends.

Side notes:  

  • One of the few things I remembered from the story was reading about the Dakota, a building that was so far out in the country when it was built that people said, "You might as well go to the Dakotas," it was so far away from the city. So, its name was actually a nickname based on that remark. The Dakota is on my wish-list of places to see on a future trip to New York City. 
  • Time and Again is illustrated with photographs and illustrations of New York City in the late 19th century (although not all are strictly from 1882), which adds to the fun. 

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