York , 1577: Hawise Aske smiles at a stranger in the market, and sets in train a story of obsession and sibling jealousy, of love and hate and warped desire. Drowned as a witch, Hawise pays a high price for that smile, but for a girl like her in Elizabethan York, there is nowhere to go and nowhere to hide.
Four and a half centuries later, Grace Trewe, who has travelled the world, is trying to outrun the memories of being caught up in the Boxing Day tsunami. Her stay in York is meant to be a brief one.
But in York Grace discovers that time can twist and turn in ways she never imagined. Drawn inexorably into Hawise's life, Grace finds that this time she cannot move on. Will she too be engulfed in the power of the past?
And here is Harper's review:
I hesitated at first over Time’s Echo. Of the three books that I chose for the Reader Challenge, I read this one first, suspecting by its blurb that I would like it least. Its blurb bills it as a ‘running from your problems’ book, which along with ‘coming of age’ books always give me pause, as the ones I’ve read almost invariably become mired in self-righteous didactics. Not to mention the fact that other time slip books I’ve read have let me down so badly that the phenomenon’s prominence in Time’s Echo filled me with dread.
Oh, how very, very wrong I was.
I loved this book. It captivated me, it made me cry, I needed hugs when it was over.
Hawise begins the book with her death. In the transition from Hawise to Grace, the only really clear-cut transition we ever receive, the stage is set for what is in every respect a time slip. Just like Grace, we have no idea when Hawise will take over the narrative, and her grip is insidious. We sympathize with Grace, because we are similarly off-step and out of control.
Ms Hartshorne’s evocative prose envelopes the reader no matter the time setting. Despite the fact that both Hawise and Grace narrate in first person, their voices and environments remain beautifully distinct. It makes the ‘slip’ all the more creepy and awesome when you can see Hawise start to weasel into Grace’s narrative without Grace becoming aware of her at all.
One aspect of this book which won my heart was the sheer logic of it. Grace has a mind, and she uses it. Often I found myself thinking, ‘Grace, why don’t you look at things this way?’ or ‘But wouldn’t it make sense to talk to that person?’ And, through the development of the narrative, Grace picked up on these same things, in a way which felt organic to the story and refreshingly sensible. Similarly, I loved that, in order to understand her possession, Grace approached a variety of different people, from a witch to a psychologist to a priest, yet Ms Hartshorne makes no value judgement between these methods. They all help Grace, they all give her perspective, yet ultimately it is Grace herself who has to deal with what’s happening to her. Nor does Ms Hartshorne make value judgements about Grace’s lifestyle choices, which, considering Grace’s attitude towards settling down and the choices she ultimately makes, would have been incredibly easy to do. But Ms Hartshorne does an excellent job of making Grace’s choices seem right for Grace, and not a kind of morality play for the reader.
Time’s Echo was nominated for its ‘strong romantic elements’; this is like saying Hamlet has ‘mild dramatic overtones’. The backbone of Hawise’s story is formed by a girl who does not think herself as attractive as others basking in the attention of the wrong man. By the time she realizes this, she does not know how to extract herself. The romance which defines Hawise’s story is not always positive: although she finds love in the arms of Ned, her husband, the fear of Francis persists, hunting her just as the man himself does.
Grace’s romance comes much more subtly, and her burgeoning relationship with Drew, her next door neighbour, feels natural and incredibly rewarding. It would be easy to make their relationship merely a reflection of Hawise and Ned (as I complain about regarding Indira and Tomas in my upcoming review of Mark of the Witch), but Ms Hartshorne deftly allows each woman her own relationship. Grace constantly reminds herself that although she can see similarities between people in her reality and Hawise’s, one is not a replay of the other.
If I had any issues with Time’s Echo, it would be that Sophie, the daughter of Grace’s love interest, showed the danger of becoming a plot moppet: her relationship with Grace progressed from aloof to awesome friends rather too quickly for my taste. But this is, all things told, a really minor quibble, and I am heartily looking forward to Ms Hartshorne’s next book in October.