You believe her. That’s the thing. Sally Gardner ‘always’ puts some fantasy into her novels, but because she’s a born storyteller, you just go right ahead and think ‘this sounds perfectly normal’. I wasn’t sure whether the fantastic elements would work as well for the 1930s and WWII as in her previous, older, books, but they do. (By older I obviously mean further into the murky past.)
What’s not to believe when a cinema comes and goes?
This isn’t so much about films, as making the reader feel they are in the film. And the film is the glitzy pre-war kind, deco style, with plenty of money thrown at it. You want beautiful women wearing gorgeous dresses, and tame tigers to pet, and you get it. You want to go see a film, you don’t mix with the natives. You build your own cinema. It’s that kind of money.
But money doesn’t buy happiness, as we all know. Time machines – if they existed – won’t make your life any better. But you can always try. (I know, this is the second book of the week featuring a time machine-building millionnaire…)
Amaryllis Ruben is 17 and her widowed father builds a machine to right all the wrongs in his life. A wealthy American, he settles down in an English countryside mansion with hordes of staff. He’s hardly ever there, but he still needs to control his daughter’s life.
Mr Ruben forces Amaryllis to befriend local boy Ezra, and he and his family become tied up with the scientific madness surrounding them. War comes and it is brutal. But not as brutal as what Ezra’s father re-lives from the war that went before.
My favourite character has to be Ezra’s mother. She is a wonderful woman, who turns her teapot three times for a better quality tea. And the MI5 chap, or whatever he is, is quite fun too. I like reading about intelligent people, not just bumbling fools.
This is a fantastic adventure, and you just can’t work out quite how it will develop. It’s got lots of sinister people and happenings, but also beautiful and fascinating and thought provoking ones. And I do love the setting! WWII is rarely portrayed as glamourous, and I know it wasn’t really, but this still works for me.
Romance, bravery and a little time travel. And let’s not forget love. Love’s important.