Author: Callie Langridge
If I could time travel, visiting suffragettes would be on the top of my list. I would absolutely love to meet some of those amazing women who fought for all of us, and because of whom I can be an academic today and have opportunities women of the past did not have.
Apart from being a massive time travel fan and a feminist, I am also a history lover. Hence, Langridge’s book ticked all the boxes for me. It is time travel story, it is feminist and it is historical. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
The book narrates a story of Louisa Arnold, a girl who grew up at Council Estate in England and who only has happy memories of the time she played in Hill House with her brothers. Hill House has been long abandoned as their family, the Mandeville’s have all been ruined by their vicious cousin George Caxton. In the early 20th century, Lord Charles committed suicide after George exposed a scandal he set him up to get involved with. Tom died in the war in France. Edward bankrupted and moved to London after selling the house and the estate, and Charlotte died as a wife of the notorious cousin George under suspicious circumstances.
Louisa Arnold loses her mother in 2013 and wanders to the Hill House to find comfort because she feels guilty for her death. While she walks around abandoned ruins, she magically ends up in 1913 when Hill House was not abandoned but blossomed in all its beauty. Council Estate girl finds herself in the Edwardian England and in luxury, she could previously only imagine through her studies in history that did not result with much-wanted teacher’s job but a job in a supermarket and paying off enormous student debt. Louisa also finds herself in a world where women have no vote, no rights and when she is being served, dressed and curtsied by other women, and a world in which servants are pretending to be invisible not to bother ladies and gentlemen they serve. This obviously goes against all of her beliefs because Louisa is a feminist and she also comes from a poor background. Thus, throughout the book, she navigates social expectations and struggles to behave as everybody else does. Her friendship with maids Sally and Mary is therefore touching, especially in parts where she gives jewellery and accessories to Mary so she can sell them and buy medicines for her mother as well as go back to school, or when she befriends Sally and allows her to dress her up according to her wishes to earn her a position of lady’s maid rather than housemaid. Encouraging Charlotte to insist on her right to go to the University as her brothers did is also a nice feminist touch.
Louisa thus gets to meet Mandeville’s and Caxton’s and while she is trying to make sense out of what happened and whether she is in coma, she slowly starts to realise that magically she can go back and forth in time so we get to read about her trying to investigate what happens to Mandeville’s by leaving the estate and going to her time only to return on the same day. I was annoyed that it took half of the book for Louisa to stop rambling about being in a coma and imagining the whole thing, but eventually, when the book took off it was absolutely captivating and I couldn’t let it go. In addition, it took half of the book to reveal how Louisa crossed dimensions. I did not know how she crossed through time and what is going on and I tried to explain the story with usual theories on time travel, e.g. Hawking, Einstein, etc. Eventually I ended up telling myself off by loudly saying, ‘believe in magic you muggle’, which then furthermore made me laugh because I remembered this is what Howard said to Sheldon in the Big Bang Theory when he and Raj were cheating on Sheldon and falsely convincing him Howard can just know which cards Sheldon picked without watching.
The book eventually explains the magic as something spiritual, which gave this book a beautiful twist because not everything needs to be explained in scientific terms, especially not when it comes to fiction. Therefore, Louisa fell through the time because the House needed her just like decades ago Elisabeth fell through the time to help Charlotte and Tom’s aunt Leonora with loneliness while Leonora helped Elisabeth grieve and heal from the loss of her family during the WWII. And, just like Alice of 2013 fell through the time to finish what Louisa has started, and save the House…
The book is also a love story for Louisa falls in love with Tom but as she is only ever allowed to stay within the Hill House Estate and falls back to her time when she leaves the property, she knows her time is limited. The author pictured the pain she feels when she realises this really well. I was physically suffering for her while reading the book, feeling deep sadness while reading those pages. Only good writers can do this.
However, I wasn’t able to picture Louisa’s face that well. In other words, while I was able to picture the House and the clothes each character wore and many of character’s faces I wasn’t able to do the same with Louisa. In general, more description of all characters was needed, in particular, their faces. But, this does not undermine the beauty of the book because places, events and feelings are pictured beautifully.
Inspiring and highly recommended for history and time travel lovers.
Thank you for reading.