After weeks of anxious waiting, a postcard arrived from Mira's mother, who had disappeared without a trace. She was in Paris, on some sort of quest, unable to return home....So Mira's family--her father, herself, and her older brother--set off to Paris to look for her. And there Mira finds herself touching a gargoyle, and being whisked back into the past. At first 1881 seems like a nice place to visit. Mira is very lucky, as time travellers go, in that she finds herself dressed appropriatly, and even more so, in that she becomes friends with Degas' handsome young apprentice, Claude. But though she can't help but be fascianted by the world of the French Impressionists in which she finds herself, this is no holiday.
Her mother is back there in the past too, leaving mysterious notes and forbidding Mira to try to make contact with her. Something in the past has gone wrong, and now Mira's mother, and Mira herself, have to try to fix it...despite enemies trying to stop them. And despite the fact that Mira can't control her time-travelling---no sooner does she get settled in one time, then the years shift and she's jumped ahead.
And meanwhile the Dreyfus Afair, the framing of a Jewish soldier for espionage, has lit fires of public anti-Semetism, and sullied the international reputation of the French Governement. Somehow Mira, herself Jewish, must help exonerate Dreyfus, or else...
This is very much Time Travel as historical learning experience, a sub-genre I happen to appreciate--I've always enjoyed learning through fiction, and I certainly know much more about Dreyfus now than I absorbed back in 11th grade! But it is not all dry facts and events. Some fictional lightness is provided by Mira's doomed crush on Claude--it's hard for a girl who disappeares, only to pop up again a few years later, to keep relationship going! Just so as to avoid raising false expectations--this was very much a somewhat shallow, not central to the plot, romance of the 13-year-old girl having a crush kind--not the in-depth passionate sort one might expect in a book for older readers.
For me the most enjoyable aspect of the book was meeting all the Impressionist painters--it was very pleasantly diverting. Mira herself draws, and her sketches fill the book, adding further lightness to the heavy weight of the Dreyfus afair.
Thanks to the publisher, I'm offering a copy to a reader (US or Canada) who leaves a comment (with enough contact info. to be contactable) before 11:59 EST next Timeslip Tuesday, October 30! DEADLINE EXTENDED to Friday, Nov. 2 at 11:59pm.