There are many Groundhog Day-esque stories in 2022's contemporary fiction which explore time travel and time loops, including 'Wrong Place, Wrong Time' by Gillian McAllister, also released today; 'This Time Tomorrow' by Emma Straub, publishing in June; and 'Sea of Tranquillity' by Emily St. John Mandel, which came out last month.
How did all these writers know, a couple of years ago, that the time travel family drama/thriller was going to be the next big thing? Is it a coincidence? Or did one inspire more? I don't know, but in honour of paperback publication day today, I'm going to give you my thoughts on Charlotte Butterfield's 'By This Time Tomorrow', published by Hodder & Stoughton today!
Here's the blurb:
Jessica Bay has it all - and it's all too much. Between moody teenagers, a hectic job and a husband who can recall that the last time they slept together was 632 days ago but somehow can't remember to put the bins out, Jess is close to breaking point. Desperate for change, she moves the family to a tiny island in the English Channel. An island that has a secret: it can take you back in time to relive any day in your past. To have another go at doing it right. But as Jess becomes dizzy with the fact that she can, she forgets to consider if she should. Because changing even one moment in your past will change your whole future in unknowable ways. How much of her supposedly imperfect life is Jess willing to gamble? And will she realise the risks before she loses everything?
And here are my thoughts:
What we understand to be 'time travel' fiction usually falls into the realm of sci-fi or fantasy genres. Like 'The Time Traveller's Wife' back in 2003, 'By This Time Tomorrow' offers a refreshing take on time travel stories where the characters and their relationships drive the story, with a spot of time travel on the side.
This is an unusual combination of genres (women's fiction with a dash of sci-fi), but it works really well to investigate the human and family side of travelling through time in a way that feels novel and fresh.
No spoilers for the book here - but for example, you find yourself asking things like if you could go back in time and fix one thing about your kid's childhood, would you? What if your change affects the trajectory of your child's life - or even their personality? Are they still the child you know and love? Do you know them? Can you love them? Those kinds of questions are interesting and heart-breaking and exactly the sort of questions Charlotte Butterfield poses in 'By This Time Tomorrow'.
I enjoyed the story very much, and the characters were well-written. I did get teary in some parts, which is something I enjoy very much in fiction. So if you're looking for a heart-wrenching family drama with a spot of time travel, this is the book for you!
And as for my writing, will Rosie Walker's third novel be a time loop family drama? Absolutely not! I have so much admiration for those writers who can fiddle around with a complex timeline, and time loops take that to a whole new level of complexity. I am not that writer. Straightforward linear narrative, thankyouverymuch. But hats off to those who can pull it off!
Find out more about Charlotte's new novel here, or buy it from your favourite bookshop!
About the author:
Contrary to the impression her novel might give, Charlotte Butterfield loves her life just as it is. A former magazine editor, she was born in Bristol in 1977 and studied English at Royal Holloway. She moved to Dubai by herself on a one-way ticket with one suitcase in 2005 and left twelve years later with a husband, three children and a 40ft shipping container. She now lives in the Cotswolds, where she is a freelance writer and novelist. Her first novel won a Montegrappa award at the 2016 Emirates Festival of Literature, and she went on to publish three romantic comedies with One More Chapter (previously Harper Impulse). By This Time Tomorrow is her fourth novel, and the first published by Hodder & Stoughton.