Last week I had a lovely visit with my friend Anamaria, of Books Together. It is such a pleasure to chat books and blogs non-stop for several hours with a like-minded reader--our tastes are remarkably similar. And as an added bonus, she sent me home with several time travel books! One of these was Time at the Top, by Edward Ormondroyd (1963, but reprinted in 2003--that's the cover shown at left. The cover of the copy that Anamaria lent me, from the mid-70s, isn't available on line, which is perhaps a good thing...).
One wet March day, the sort of day when everything goes wrong, Susan Shaw comes to the aid of a strange old lady fumbling and dropping her bags in street. By way of thanks, the old lady says, "I'll give you three." Not unnaturally, Susan thinks wishes, but it's something even stranger. And then Susan steps into her apartment building's elevator, and disappears without a trace--the first of three such trips.
The next day a note from Susan is discovered on a scrap of newspaper, reassuring her widowed father that all is well. And two days later, she herself reappears, wearing clothes from eighty years ago, and tells her incredulous father her impossible.
The elevator took her back to 1881, to the home that had once stood in the spot now occupied by apartments. There she met Victoria and Bobby Walker, and their beautiful widowed mother. To Victoria, Susan is clearly the answer to her own wish--that some help would come to foil the designs of the nasty man courting her mother. And so a plot is hatched, one that will require all of Susan's acting skills to carry off.
But when Susan comes home to tell her story to her father, she still has a third trip on the elevator back to the past waiting for her...and the pull of the past, and the Walker family and their lovely home in the country, is strong....and maybe it's time her father married again.
It's a lovely light excursion of a book, one that I enjoyed as an adult, but would have loved to pieces as a child. Susan's time in the past with the Walker children is full of small details, and the difficulties to be faced, and their solution, make for pleasant reading.
Ormandroyd adds interest to the story by framing it from his own point of view as another tenant in the apartment building, watching events unfold as Susan disappears and then returns--it makes it more real, somehow, to have his outsider perspective, and it doesn't intrude on the nice uninterrupted narrative of Susan's own story. But it might make the beginning difficult for the young reader, by making it seem adultish, and it does mean the book is slow to really get going on Susan's own story.
I just saw on Amazon that there is a sequel--All In Good Time--I want it! Time at the Top ends neatly, but with tons of story left untold, and All in Good Time, published 12 years later, fills in that missing space.
(Oh the wonder of computerized library catalogues! I have just requested All in Good Time, and might even have it read in time for next Timeslip Tuesday....)
I just found that both these books are being reissued as a single volume from Purple House Press this very fall!!! I like the cover: