Poor Brendan Doyle, originally summoned to accompany a time travelling expedition as an expert on Samuel Taylor Coleridge, whose lecture a group of the very cream of well-to-do of 20th century English speaking society plans to attend. He no sooner goes back in time with them than he is lost in time, in space and eventually in body - for he does not end the novel in the same physique, under the same name, or in the same century in which he begins.
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Through the machinations of not one but FOUR malign magicians (all of whom wish merrie olde England ill because of its considerable influence over "modern" [meaning 19th century] Egypt), including one who can SWITCH BODIES AT WILL, Doyle visits not only 19th century London (weird enough) but also that same city during the great freeze of 1660.
In the process he has a strange revelation about the authorship of his favorite poem, the life story of his favorite poet, and the true quality of the brandy and cigars of a supposedly more genteel era.
I haven't even, in this summary, touched on the other marvels of this book: the rookery of St. Giles, the master's lair in Cairo, the poor cobbler Eshvlis, the vagaries of depliation before the invention of Nair... if any of this intrigues you at all, or even if it doesn't. you're in for a treat.
I'm not overly thrilled with the special hardcover edition published in 1989 - the type is obnoxious (especially for any older readers with whom one might wish to share) and the illustrations of dubious quality. HOWEVER, this IS a work worthy of owning in a durable edition, so I would still recommend getting it that way if the paperback edition (still in print) catches your fancy. If you enjoy even one reading of the paperback, get the hardcover; you'll want to loan out the paperback again and again until it disappears or falls apart.
The review of this Book prepared by Kate Sherrod
Brendan Doyle is a scholar studying 17th century poets and struggling to recover from the death of his wife. But when a very rich man offers him a very large sum for a very simple job, things get so complicated so quickly that Brendan suddenly has a lot of other things to worry about. For example, he's got to survive *in* the 17th century, not just study it. And some people - quite a few, really - are trying to kill him. And change the course of history. This book shows Powers' minute familiarity with the time period as well as his boundless imagination.
The review of this Book prepared by Ivy