The Bookish Time Travel Tag

antique_mechanical_clockIt’s a long time since I’ve done anything like this, but englishlitgeek was kind enough to tag me, I loved the theme and the questions that  The Library Lizard set out in the world, and so I decided that it was time.

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What is your favourite historical setting for a book?

Oh my goodness, it is so difficult – almost impossible – for me to pick a setting; because as long as I’ve been reading the most magical thing about books is that they can take me to so many different places and so many times in history.

There is one setting though that has an extra special magic, and I love those authors who have set stories close to my Cornish home and had me believing that the people they wrote about really lived and the stories they told really played out.

I loved the familiar train journey down through the county that John Trevena caught in well in ‘A Pixy in Petticoats’.

I’ve sat on top of a hill near St Just and placed character and events in ‘Penmarric’ by Susan Howatch in places I could see.

I’ve wondered which town centre pubs were visited in ‘The Owl House’ by Crosbie Garstin – The Star, I suspect.

I loved that the title character  in ‘Ruan’ by Bryher walked across the same beach that my dog loves ….


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What writer/s would you like to travel back in time to meet?

I’m a little wary of meeting authors, because I’m shy and would be overwhelmed by some of them, because I can see that some of them valued their privacy and I want to respect that, and because in same cases books are better when you don’t know too much about the author.

But I can think of a few, and I’ve planned a day out with three of my favourite 20th century English lady writers.

I’d spend the morning walking along the River Dart with Agatha Christie. I love the countryside there, and I’ve always admired her riverside home. I’d love to talk to her about books – her own and others she admires – and everything I’ve read about her suggests that we have similar values and would get on well.

I’d call on Margery Sharp in the afternoon. She always looks so at ease in photographs taken in domestic settings, and I so want to tell her how much I love her books. I’d like to ask her what might have happened to Cluny Brown after the surprise ending of the book that bears her name, and I’d hope that she might have a copy of ‘Rhododendron Pie’ – a book that is very scarce and horribly expensive – that I might borrow.


In the evening I’d go to a dinner party with G B Stern. Her gloriously discursive memoirs have told me that she had an extraordinary circle of friends, that she had wide ranging interests – many of which I share – and that she would be a wonderfully entertaining companion.

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What book/s would you travel back in time and give to your younger self?

There are two kinds of books that I would take. There are books that I’ve read recently and suspect I would have liked even more when I was a little younger; Mary Stewart’s romantic suspense novels come to mind. There are books by prolific authors I would have liked to have made a start on earlier; authors like Anthony Trollope and Patricia Wentworth.



But I would leave all of those books here in the present of I could just give my younger self some advice; that there are so many great books in the world already, as well as books still to be written and rediscovered, so there’s no need to read anything that isn’t wonderful; that many of the long, classic novels that look like hard work are nothing of the kind; and that the green Virago Modern Classics that she will see on a display in her university bookshop would be excellent investments ….

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What book/s would you travel forward in time and give to your older self?

I’m not sure that I’d take anything. I’m filling the house with books and I think I have to trust my older self to make her own choices, because I really don’t know how life will change her and influence what she wants to read between now and then.


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What is your favourite futuristic setting from a book?

I really can’t think of one – the books I read all seem to be set in the present or the past.

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What is your favourite book that is set in a different time period (can be historical or futuristic)?

I can never pick a single book, and I could give you umpteen titles, but these were the first five must-mention books that I haven’t mentioned already:


The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox
South Riding by Winifred Holtby
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey

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Spoiler Time: Do you ever skip ahead to the end of a book just to see what happens?

Never! I learned my lesson a long time ago when I looked to see how many pages were left in a particular book and saw something that ruined the rest of the story.

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If you had a Time Turner, where would you go and what would you do?

I’d go here, there and everywhere!

I’d go to Ireland and visit Delia Scully and her lovely gran.
(‘Never No More’ by Maura Laverty)

I’d go to Venice and have my portrait painted by Cecilia Cornaro.
(‘Carnevale’ by Michelle Lovric)

I’d go to Edwardian London to walk, talk and argue with Miriam Henderson.
(‘Pilgrimage’ by Dorothy Richardson)


I’d travel north, to Yorkshire, to see a very special garden with my own eyes.
(‘The Secret Garden’ by Frances Hodgson-Burnett)

I’d love to spend some time exploring Castle Gormenghast.
(‘The Gormenghast Trilogy’ by Mervyn Peake)

I’d board a certain boat, and travel to America with Adeliza Golding.
(‘The Visitors’ by Rebecca Mascull)

I’d settle in Canada for a while, and try to be a good friend and neighbour to Sophie Forrester while her husband is away.
(‘To the Bright Edge of the World’ by Eowyn Ivey)

And when I grew weary of travelling I would visit the library at Hurfew and read and read and read ….
(Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell’ by Susanna Clark)


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Favourite book (if you have one) that includes time travel or takes place in multiple time periods?

“Lying awake at night, Tom hears the old grandfather clock downstairs strike . . . eleven . . . twelve . . . thirteen . . . Thirteen! When Tom gets up to investigate, he discovers a magical garden. A garden that everyone told him doesn’t exist. A garden that only he can enter . . .”

I fell in love with ‘Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce when I was very, very young.

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What book/series do you wish you could go back and read again for the first time?

This is a wish I make often about beloved books. The book where it would make the most difference is ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’ by Agatha Christie, because I would love to read it again without knowing its clever twist.


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I don’t want to push anyone to do anything they don’t want to do, but I will mention some names of others who might be interested and whose answers I’d love to read:

Jessica @ The Bookworm Chronicles

Cirtnecce @ Mockingbirds, Looking Glasses and Prejudices

Helen @ She Reads Novels

Sandra @ A Corner of Cornwall

Lori @ The Emerald City Book Review

Answering those questions pulled some lovely books and ideas from the back of my mind, so please, even if I haven’t mentioned you, do go ahead and answer some or all of them.

28 thoughts on “The Bookish Time Travel Tag

  1. Jane, this was a joy to read–I loved your responses! I would only add one question to this intriguing line-up: What is the most memorable book you DIDN’T finish?


    1. Now that is a good question. I think it would have to be Nicola Beauman’s ‘A Very Great Profession: The Woman’s Novel 1914-39’, which I consult from time to time but have never read right through, because I know it would make me want to find so many more books. And there’s also Bee Wilson’s ‘Consider The Fork’ which I have dipped into often but never read through properly.

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  2. Jane, I was enjoying your answers enormously – then my eyes almost popped out of my head when I saw my name on your list at the end! And of course now I can’t stop thinking about the questions. Whether I come up with any anwers remains to be seen 😉


      1. Remember those 1970s children’s series MIDNIGHT IS A PLACE and COME BACK LUCY?They were as good as TOM’S MIDNIGHT GARDEN.Oh the memories……


  3. What lovely answers, I’ve really enjoyed reading them (and I know and love that beach, I think, too – at least I’ve certainly taken a similar view, without the adorable dog, of course). I have been tagged in this by Karen and was worrying I wouldn’t be able to answer the questions because I don’t read historical novels or sci fi, but you’ve shown me that of course you can use books written and set in a time different to ours, so that’s encouraging me to give it a go.

    I totally agree with you about Trollope, too!!


  4. Great post Jane! So many great suggestions and ideas. Thanks for participating. This is fun! Thanks for keeping it going!


  5. Oh!! Jane..i just saw this post and as I was scrolling down the questions, I was wondering what i would have answered and Lo! behold, I see my name! I know its a bit late but post coming up soon!! By the way, I have to come and visit the Cornish cost ONCE!! Read way too much about it!1


  6. Thank you for thinking of me – I must admit, all the way through reading this I thought how much these questioned suited me and how fun it would be to have a go. I hope to have my post up this coming week 🙂

    I love your choice of Tom’s Midnight Garden as I have very fond memories of my Year 5 teacher, my favourite teacher, reading this to us in class.


  7. What a beautiful, long, luxuriously detailed response to the questions, I enjoyed reading it enormously and was reminded of many books I have loved. Thank you for reminding me of “Tom’s Midnight Garden,” which I reread many times when I was young. I can still see those rich illustration in my mind’s eye. Your blog is delightful!

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