Book Review: Jack Finney’s Time and Again

Posted September 9, 2014 by Kathy Davie in

Book Review: Jack Finney’s Time and Again

Time and Again

in Paperback edition on May 1, 2012 and has 399 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon., Barnes & NobleKobo.

First in the Time science fiction mystery series revolving around a unique form of time travel.

Time and Again won the 1994 Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire.

My Take

This is one of those stories in which you need to plough through the beginning as it took awhile before it got interesting. I have to confess that I almost put it down a good chunk into the book. I couldn’t find a purpose behind what Rube was having Simon do, even when they explained what they and the others were doing. Even when Danziger is explaining what they’re doing, it doesn’t make any sense. Most of what Danziger says doesn’t apply to what Simon is doing, nor does it follow with what Ruben and company ask Simon to do much later. It may be what people do in the real world, leave everything so vague, but it doesn’t do in the reader’s world. We need a reason to read on. I only kept on out of hope. A hope that finally bore fruit.

It is an intriguing idea for how to time travel. It could be dangerous as well!

I suspect the primary interest for most readers would be for the history and the anthropological aspects of going back in time to 1882 in New York City. I found this fascinating — I am a history buff *grin*. I also loved (and hated) Finney’s note on how the people of 1882 New York City were so much more alive. And I could see it in my mind’s eye. Finney is right. We are much more closed off. We don’t appreciate the world around us these days. We’re too absorbed in our own worries, our technology — we’re jaded. The people of 1882, however, took an interest in what was around them. Hmmm, I wonder if it’s because we have all this technology?

There’s the scene on the Ladies’ Mile in which women are crowding the shop windows, and Simon doesn’t understand the excitement of why. I have to wonder if it’s because this was the only place where women saw anything new. Nor do I imagine that there were a lot of shops nor ones that had merchandise that changes as frequently as it does in our time. Food for thought. I also liked Finney’s observation about how a new place, a “world” to which one travels, suddenly becomes real.

There were the evenings at Mrs. Huff’s boarding house with everyone gathering in the parlor before and after dinner and their entertainments. There is no television, no radio, no record players, so naturally human interaction was almost a requirement.

Finney got the time period just right. The culture, the manners, the dress. The interactions between people. He made me think of so many authors who campaigned for the poor. Yes, even Jacob Riis was in the back of my mind. It was fascinating to read about the scarcity of watches and the use of the telegraph company’s red ball. The anger over those too-short ladders. The lack of civil rights. The taste of food. Fingerprints!

It was irritating not knowing the time period in which Si was living. Finney gives clues, and yet I found myself leaping from the late 1950s on up to the turn into our current century and back again. The television with dials was a good tip-off. But switchboards, goody gumdrops, he’s not sleeping with his girlfriend, no cellphones. It also bugged me the number of times Finney repeated whole chunks of text. WTF?

A few other niggles include my wondering why Carmody would commit suicide so many years later? If it’s so difficult finding people who can time travel, why aren’t they more interested in Kate as a potential traveler? Speaking of Kate, how is that Si and Kate made that decision about their relationship? There was nothing that led to that choice other than Finney’s words. Why didn’t Si and Julia head to the Dakota when they were on the run? I did expect more nightmares and trauma after all that lead up from Finney.

I adored Finney’s descriptions of the time. The sounds of the horses’ hooves, the jingle jangle of their bells. The cold those poor bus drivers suffered…I think I got chilblains! He also made me incredibly grateful for our current protections from the police! I do whine about criminals being too protected these days, but it’s better than what Inspector Byrne was doing in those days!

Which leads me to the ending. I hated it. No, it actually was a good ending in many ways. Lord knows I had to re-read it three times before it really sunk in what Si did. But I hated that Finney left us wondering about so much of it!! Arghhhh…I love epilogues, ahem.

The Story

A tease of an interview, the promise of adventure, and the stroking of an ego is enough to send Simon Morley out Time and Again to explore the world of 1882 New York City and satisfy a nagging question left behind by a mysterious letter.

The Characters

Simon Morley is an artist working as an advertising man in New York City. It’s Katherine “Kate” Mancuso who owns an antiques shop with whom he’s currently spending time. Ira and Belle Carmody were Kate’s adoptive parents, and the reason for Si’s trip into the past. Andrew Carmody was Ira’s father. And I find I’m curious as to which Andrew Carmody was the father!

Contemporary New York

The time agency
Major Ruben Prien is the man who recruits Si. Dr. Oscar Rossoff is the resident psychiatrist with terrible coffee; Alice is his secretary. Dr. E.E. Danziger is the director of the project. Martin Lastvogel, an historical researcher, is Si’s instructor. Colonel Esterhazy is part of the board along with Mr. Fessenden who represents the president and Professor Butts, a professor of biology in Chicago. Other travelers include Franklin Miller, Ted Brietel, and John.

The advertising agency
Vince Mandel is the lettering man. Maureen is the paste-up girl. Frank Dapp is the art director. Karl Jonas is one of the artists. Vera is on the switchboard.

Lennie Hindesmith was the first artist with whom Si worked. Matt Flax is a friend along with Pearl Moschetti and Grace Ann Wunderlich.

The New York of 1882

The people at Aunt Ada Huff’s boarding house include her niece, Julia Charbonneau; the happy-go-lucky Felix Grier with his photography rig; Byron Keats Doverman (his mama must’a liked poetry); Maud Torrence; and, the possessive, greedy Jake Pickering. Ellen Bull cleans the Potter Building. Ida Small makes a narrow escape. Dr. Prime is with the Observer. Inspector of Police Thomas Byrnes is the reason we need protections. Charles Wright’s good sense. J. Walter Thompson, the advertising man.

The Cover

The cover is okay. I can’t really get excited about it. It has a white background with faint clockfaces on it, a tiny picture of the Dakota at the bottom opposite the author’s name and a short blurb with the small title in a black box at the top. The most prominent aspect of the cover is the photograph being held by a hand of part of New York City. The old New York City with a raised El on the right. It is disconcerting without all those tall buildings.

The title is prophetic for Si takes Time and Again and again and again.