Paul and his little sister are on the run across the English Midlands. They are escaping from the police, who caught them in what looked like shoplifting, but Paul is also trying to escape from his father's new wife. They get a ride in the horse-drawn cart of Old Bill, which carries them along the old driftway, a road older than England. And as the cart makes its slow way into the foggy night, Paul's eyes open to the experiences of those who travelled the road before him--travellers from all the hundreds of years past. They tell him their stories--sad, angry, and despairing, stories of civil war, and chance encounters with strangers, highwaymen and poachers. As Paul travels the driftway, listening to other people whose lives he would find unimaginable in real life, he also travels into a better understanding of what he is really running from.
Ok. So it's a tad didactic. And the meetings with the people from the past are not integrated at all with what is happening in modern times--Paul simply experiences their stories. But at the heart of the Driftway is Lively's love for the land, and the stories it holds. This sense of past places and people makes it a book worth reading.
Paul looked out into the darkness. The silence concealed the landscape he knew: the neat, orderly landscape of hedgerows, shapely trees, hills lifted to meet sky and cloud, fields, streams, squat cottages, a landscape that seemed set and unchanging in all but the variety of season, the variety of colour and of light. But it was not. Beneath it lay all those other things: People working, fighting, dying....he imagined other eyes in other times looking at the same things, feeling the same feelings, thinking...No not thinking the same things. That would be the difference.Lively went on to write other timeslips --The Ghost of Thomas Kempe (1974), The House in Norham Gardens (1976), and A Stitch in Time (1976)--which are rather more successful at gracefully meshing different times than is the case in The Driftway. Those who love old roads, however, will find much to like here.
'You can't know how they thought,' he said. 'Not really.'
'I s'pose not, son. But we should try. We should do that.' (p 80, 1985 edition).