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Summary

From the author described by The Times as 'the most remarkable historian of our time', this is a stunningly high-concept historical novel, perfect for fans of Conn Iggulden, SJ Parris and Kate Mosse.

December 1348: With the country in the grip of the Black Death, brothers John and William fear that they will shortly die and go to hell. But as the end draws near, they are given an unexpected choice: either to go home and spend their last six days in their familiar world or to search for salvation across the forthcoming centuries - living each one of their remaining days 99 years after the last.

John and William choose the future and find themselves in 1447, ignorant of almost everything going on around them. The year 1546 brings no more comfort, and 1645 challenges them still further. It is not just that technology is changing: things they have taken for granted all their lives prove to be short-lived.

As they find themselves in stranger and stranger times, the listener travels with them, seeing the world through their eyes as it shifts through disease, progress, enlightenment and war. But their time is running out - can they do something to redeem themselves before the six days are up?

©2017 Ian Mortimer (P)2017 Simon & Schuster UK

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Imaginative, thought-provoking historical fiction

I’ve listened to three of the author’s entertaining historical time travellers’ guides and enjoyed his way of illuminating the past by describing the experiences of ordinary people.

The present book is a mix of highly imaginative fantasy mixed with historical fact. Instead of passively describing what life was like in each century from the 15th to 20th, and how it changed, he has two brothers born in the 15th century travel through time and materialize in a different century on 6 consecutive days. Each time jumping forward by 99 years.

Told in the first person by John, history comes vividly to life. it transforms dry facts into a fascinating chronology of the changes in government, religious beliefs, laws and punishments, the evolution of technology, what people, ate drank and the clothes they wore; and not least, the impact of disease and war.

The brother’s confusion at the new ways and words they encounter in future centuries highlights the changes and at times adds humour to their hardships. The first person narrative makes for a pacy and gripping book that I greatly enjoyed. The events and way of life they experience in the 19th and 20th centuries are more familiar and their re-telling not so engaging, but the final message of what it means to be human is powerful and thought-provoking. I was left with the feeling that the trappings of life change with progress but human feelings and failings remain much the same.

Underlying this lively story is a morality tale reminiscent of Marlowe’s Dr Faustus and its medieval inspiration, the play Everyman. As if to underline this at one point John is given the surname, Everyman.

A splendid book narrated with verve.

55 of 60 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Lee
  • Aberdeenshire
  • 17-11-17

History Lesson not a novel.

I've listened to some of Ian Mortimer's other historical stuff on audible and I must say I enjoyed them. Informative, educational and fun not dry and dusty as historical stuff can be. So when I saw this novel and read the reviews I thought a time traveling romp written by this author would be right up my street but sadly I've found it long drawn out and exactly as a history lesson should sound not a novel.

The main character I found overly pious with a tendency to describe every single thing. ( the novel is told through his perspective) and I think I just got bored as I fell asleep, woke up and didn't bother to rewind as I would normally do. The book for me is flat, gray, and sorely disappointing.

I'm sure I'm in the minority with this review but I've got much more interesting novels in my wish list I want to listen to so I don't think I will try and listen to it again.

The narrator was fine.

24 of 27 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • K
  • UK
  • 10-04-18

Neither here nor there

This is a tricky book to review and I’m not even very clear how I feel about it. I actually admire an author who tries to do something different and, with the moral overtones being quite unsubtle, Ian Mortimer has been brave in producing an unfashionable novel.

I THINK he was going for a kind of Pilgrim’s Progress type structure although, in this book, the pilgrimage is through time, several centuries, in fact. What confuses me is that the motivation is not always clear and the philosophical messages, if I’m honest, aren’t very weighty. Ultimately, the authorial directive seems to be that we can all achieve grace through trying to do good deeds for one's fellow humans - hardly revelatory. So, as an historian, was Mortimer actually attempting to be instructive? If so it wasn't very successful. The narrative comes across as rather formulaic and repetitive and focusses on trivialities. That is why the writer’s motivation is confusing - if the moral message is secondary then is this novel just a descriptive lecture about the changing nature of our country, along the lines of the docu-dramas that seem to be quite popular on our screens? I am not sure.

The narrator did a pretty good job in jollying us along, by the way.

In the end, I had to think hard about why I didn’t love this novel. It is not because I do not like hearing sermons - I am always open to hearing philosophical or theological lessons providing it is robust and convincing. Neither is it because I don’t need to know what undergarments or washing implements my forbears used. I am open to new learning provided it is more than I already know or can imagine. Then I had my answer: my indifference to this book was because Mortimer just didn’t challenge me: He didn’t enlighten me, he didn’t teach me, he didn’t motivate or inspire me. Not remotely.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Brilliant

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this book. The authors use of language is outstanding and the unfolding story really immerses you in the different time periods. Rather sentimental of me I know, but I was really moved by the ending.

22 of 25 people found this review helpful

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  • R
  • 22-10-17

Clever

This is my favourite author and historian. I love it when he writes history for us mere mortals and brings it to life
This book is a very clever insight into history of the plague with a very different way of taking the reader on a journey through time
Easy to listen to while still making the reader wonder what will come next
If you like history this is for you

21 of 24 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A haunting journey through time

This is a lovely novel; full of fascinating facts whilst retaining interest with a great storyline to run alongside and an uplifting ending. I really enjoyed this story and would recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about our History.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Excellent!

Little less than a masterpiece of the historical fiction genre. It becomes ever more gripping as it proceeds. A truly great read.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Compelling and Thought Provoking

I really loved this book. What is a good deeld? So many ethical dilemmas inside a thoroughly entertaining story. I found it hard to put down. Excellent narrator. Author did well to maintain the main character's believability and authenticity. Just a couple of forgiveable slips, otherwise brilliant. For me he made the different periods in history come to life. Thorighky recommend this book.

25 of 29 people found this review helpful

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A truly wonderful read

First introduction to Ian Mortimer and I will definitely read others. What a wonderful concept beautifully written!

14 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • David
  • Wirral, United Kingdom
  • 27-10-17

Loved this book, a really interesting idea...

...and one I would return to again and again. A devoutely religious man and his flawed brother travel through time to avoid a 14th Century death at the hands of the plague in and around Exeter. Thought provoking and fascinating in equal measure. Very much recommended.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful