Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Threads of Time by Cally Phillips

Reviewed by Chris Longmuir

This book was completely out of my comfort zone, but I found it unusual, intriguing, interesting and readable. It is a literary novel, well written with language that is not only beautiful but which also has a lilting poetic quality.

Paul is an archaeologist who is undergoing an identity crisis. He is a questioning, unfulfilled man who is struggling to find meaning to his life, and is looking for answers to questions which are unanswerable. Disappointed by his philosophical and historical education he seeks to pursue a career in archaeology, and hopes to find answers to the past, the present and the future through this occupation. The reader first meets him when he is knee deep in muddy water on an archaeological dig in Galloway.

He becomes involved with Diane, ten years older and a senior archaologist. They embark on a tempestuous affair which has to be kept secret. Diane, however, is scheming against the senior archaologist who is her boss, and there is a feeling at this stage that she might be using Paul for her own ulterior purposes.

The story takes a turn to the strange and mystical after Paul discovers a bog-body. A man who has lain preserved in the peat of the bog for centuries. The theme of the bog-body has several strands. There is the link Paul feels between himself and this ancient man, but this is all mixed up with the use of the body to discredit the senior archaeologist’s theories. It is at this stage that Paul’s affair with Diane intensifies, and his dreams start.

It is not clear whether the dreams Paul is experiencing are simply dreams or whether this is a timeslip novel. However, the dreams which transport him back in time to live the bog-body’s life have an uncanny knack of being geographically accurate, and lead to many new archaeological finds.

Paul becomes split between his present day life and the past life he is experiencing. He develops a love for the bog-body’s wife Maedbh, and thinks her child is his own. This creates conflict within him because he also loves Diane, and it became an interesting, if somewhat unusual, love triangle. I felt at this point that Paul’s mind was disintegrating, and I worried about his mental health. But, as he sinks deeper into the life of his dreams, it generates questions about which life he will choose if given the choice. And does he have any choice?

I won’t discuss anything further about the plot because I would not want to spoil the story for other readers. It is sufficient to say I found this book so interesting I had to know what happened at the end.

You can buy the ebook here: