Book Notes: The Ministry of Time

Time travel. Forced proximity. A commander from a failed Arctic voyage during the time of Queen Victoria and a female government official in near future Britain. She’s his bridge to the current world. He’s in her charge for a year while the government waits to see if he can assimilate into the present. With this intriguing premise from debut author Kaliane Bradley, and following my accidental reading theme of polar expeditions (A Suffragist’s Guide to the Antarctic), I picked up The Ministry of Time and was hooked from page one.

Commander Graham Gore has been extracted at the point of his presumed death from a failed Arctic expedition, as part of the Ministry’s experiment with time travel. He’s one of five "expats" taken from various points in the past. To aid his transition into the modern age, the Ministry has assigned him a “bridge”, our unnamed narrator, put them up in a residence, and within vigorous parameters, let him loose to sink or swim. But all is not what it seems, and both Commander Gore and his bridge have to navigate the shifting loyalties and unknown agendas enacted upon them. Believe me when I say there’s a lot going on in these pages. 

Book Chats: The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club

As it starts to warm up and the sunlight lingers later each day, my genre reading shifts. No more dense fantasy novels; instead, I want books that have summery vibes. Seaside settings and joyful moments. The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club by Helen Simonson is one such book. Lori read it months ago and has been mentioning it consistently since then—and while I don't often pick up historical fiction unprompted, I do enjoy it—so we decided to have a virtual chat about it to compare notes.

Constance Haverhill finds herself out of a job now that the Great War is over and the position she fell into as an estate bookkeeper for an old family friend is being returned to a man. She gets her severance in the form of a summer spent as companion to the recovering Mrs. Fog at a seaside village. Unsure how to occupy herself, she stumbles into a friendship with the lively Poppy Wirall and her gang of motorcycle girls who worked as delivery riders during the war. In their attempts to keep riding and stay employed, hijinks ensue, races are won, and a plane destined for parts is salvaged. But the shadow of the Great War looms over them all as some try to forget and everyone attempts to move on. In this time of change and recovery, Constance has to decide what she wants to make of her life now that women are expected to go back to the way things were before.

My Mother, the Reader

I told my mom I was going to be writing about how much she fostered my own love of reading. She said, “You know, it all started in the library, when I had one of my first jobs as a page.” Back in the sixties, my mom was a teenager in the little desert town of Lancaster, California. I pictured my mom in her A-line dresses, pushing a library cart around to re-shelve books in the evenings. She said she got very distracted reading the titles of the books as she was alphabetizing them. Sounds like someone else I know, who also gets distracted reading the backs of interesting books that customers bring up to the register.

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