Standalone or series
First time reading this author?
Why I picked this
I mean a story about time travel named after a ‘70s toy space hopper – who wouldn’t pick this?
Review copy or purchase
Accessed for free via the Pigeonhole reading club app and encouraged to leave an honest review.
What it’s about
Faye’s mum died when she was eight. She has very few memories of her. Then one day she finds a photograph of herself as a child on Christmas day with a cardboard box which used to contain a toy space hopper. Even though her mum isn’t in the photo Faye knows she was holding the camera that took it, and in a spirit of nostalgia finds the old space hopper box which has come with her as storage in house moves. But, when Faye steps into the box she finds herself back on that Christmas day, but now as an adult with the chance to get to know her mum better.
A time travel story, but there are no retro cars or phone booths here, it’s the power of memories, a lost mother, and a cardboard box that once contained a space hopper.
For the uninitiated a space hopper is the big inflated balloon-like ball with horn-like grips sticking out of the top and usually a cartoon face printed on the front that kids sit on and bounce along the ground. In Faye’s story she is the space hopper as one day she steps in to the box – one of the few remaining relics of her early childhood – and finds herself back in time. An adult visitor in her own childhood, she arrives around two years before her mother’s sudden death.
Faye lost her mum when she was eight. She remembers her suffering from annual chest infections and has a vague idea that she died of having a cold. Taken in and raised by elderly neighbours with only her mother’s old cookbook to remember her by, Faye knows very little about what happened to her mother. She’s now a mum herself, married to Eddie and with two young girls, she seems happy.
Then she discovers she can travel back in time and meet her mother, get to know her as an adult and build new memories. Faye’s loyalties are divided between the past and the present as she begins to ask the questions she never knew she needed answered about who her mum was, and what happened to her.
Faye’s moments with her mum and little Faye are great. The idea of revisiting your childhood, and spending time with a parent you lost is interesting and this is really well told. Faye’s actions and thoughts are very believable and it’s easy to see why she wants to protect this precious opportunity.
It’s the events in the present time that are more challenging. We see everything in the story from Faye’s perspective, and most of the time what she says she feels tallies with her actions. Her relationship with her husband is a different matter. Everything Faye says suggests that she has a loving and accepting partnership with her husband. Yet, she point blank refuses to tell him about what’s happening to her – even when he’s furious because he can tell she’s hiding something. It leaves me questioning why she doesn’t trust him, and what she sees in him that she’s more scared of than the threat of him leaving her.
She does confide in close work friend Louis, who is a great character and really brightens up some of the obligatory musings on time travel and the risks of messing with the past.
The ending to this kind of story is always going to be a challenge. It’s the kind of thing where you’re unlikely to please everyone. Without spoiling it I’ll say that I suspect it’s an ending which will grow on me. It wasn’t what I expected, although it contained elements of what I thought might happen.
Overall this is a really solid story with a The Time Traveller’s Wife approach to the human impact of time travel. A recommended read.