Book Review – The Psychology of Time Travel

The Psychology of Time Travel
By Kate Mascarenhas

Head of Zeus
Rating: ****

1967: four female scientists invent a time-travel machine, they are on the cusp of fame: the pioneers who opened the world to new possibilities. But then one of them suffers a breakdown and puts the whole project in peril.

2017: Ruby knows her beloved Granny Bee was a pioneer, but she never talks of the past. They receive a message from the future, a newspaper clipping reporting the mysterious death of an old lady.

2018: when Odette discovers the body, she went into shock. Blood everywhere, bullet wounds, flesh. But when an inquest fails to give her the answers she needs Odette gets frustrated and takes things into her own hands. Who is this dead woman? And why is this murder being covered up?

This is a brilliant dystopian future; modern-day mystery novel and I couldn’t put it down. It is a great mixture of mystery, thriller, romance and science fiction and I absolutely loved the story.

Barbara, Margaret, Lucille and Grace are four friends who have designed and created a fully functioning time machine. However, after testing the machine a few times Barbara seems to have gone mad and is shipped away to a mental hospital, she publicly humiliates the pioneers and is never allowed to return. The novel skips to the future where Barbara is now a grandmother, her dreams of being a famous scientist/inventor are over and so is her friendship with the others. Her granddaughter Ruby has a keen interest in her grandmother’s past, but Barbara won’t talk. Until one day a note from the future turns up. It is from Grace her old friend and shows a newspaper clipping of an inquest into a death of an elderly lady which will happen in 5 months’ time. A warning from an old friend from the future, but who is this old lady and why does she get murdered?

The novel is told through a multitude of perspectives across different time zones. It was a very modern-day murder mystery… how can you catch the killer that could be anywhere in any time? Who is the elderly lady that got killed? Is it one of the original pioneers? The body is unrecognisable and there is no way to identify her. Everyone is a suspect because you may have killed someone in the future and not even know. Not knowing who did this kept me reading and wanting to know who not only the murder was but also the dead lady. There were so many unanswered questions throughout the book that I needed to know the answers to just like the characters did too. At times the novel was slightly mind boggling, more character’s perspectives were added, and the multitude of time zones and characters made it tricky to keep up with. Though Mascarenhas does a good job to keep it as easy as possible making sure each chapter has a character name and year they are situated in, I feel like other authors may have turned this into a tangled web of confusion and chaos. The fact it was slightly confusing I felt helped the novel as it reflected the mystery of the story and confusion of the characters.

As the title of the novel suggests the main themes across the novel was mental health and how time travel effects how people think. At the beginning of the novel Barbara has a breakdown so when Margaret continues to build up the time travel company she makes it very clear that new employees must go through vigorous testing to make sure they are “mentally stable”. It seems that time travel messes with people’s minds, especially when it comes to knowing their own deaths and relative’s deaths. Some characters ended up suffering from anxiety, eating disorders, depression and OCD, if this was shown in any way they were fired immediately. The way they shipped Barbara off when she had a breakdown was so sad, she got no help or support and that really upset me. Mental health is such an important thing these days and the fact that this book let people suffer and didn’t help them was very frustrating and sometimes hard to read. There are a lot of characters throughout that seem mentally unstable but as the novel unfolds you can see that Margaret plays a lot of mind games and tricks to toy with people’s emotions. When the job is already high risk for mental health Margaret really does not help her staff, and you can see what kind of person she becomes.

Another thing I loved about this novel was that it focussed solely on female characters. The pioneers were all women and there were hardly any male parts in it at all. I am not a feminist, but it was nice to read a novel where women were the leaders of a scientific invention/breakthrough and the book had lots of strong, independent women. Such as Odette, although she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder she wanted a job at the Conclave to see if she could solve the murder alone, her father was against this and thought it would give her another breakdown. But Odette carries on and doesn’t let the past faze her in her passionate journey to solving the murder.

I highly recommend The Psychology of Time Travel, it is engaging, unique, thrilling and clever. It provokes a lot of ideas and debates which I always love in a fictional novel. This is Kate Mascarenhas’ debut novel and I think it is fantastic, I will definitely be reading move of her work in the future I feel like she is and author to watch out for!

Have you read The Psychology of Time Travel? What did you think? What thoughts and opinions did it provoke for you? I would love to know so get in touch. Katie x

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