Slip Sliding Away … with Lady Jane Grey
The time-slip story is a difficult one to pull off. How do you elegantly move your main character from his or her current day reality into a past time period and someone else’s reality without beggaring belief or losing your reader? And how do you mesh the telling of two parallel, fully realized stories without letting one or the other down?
I have just finished reading Namesake, published this month by Pajama Press. This is Sue MacLeod’s debut novel and I am entirely impressed. The story is believable, beautifully crafted, and balanced. The depth and strength of the prose is not surprising once you learn that Sue MacLeod is a poet with two collections to her name. But what amazes me is the skill with which MacLeod moves her characters through their individual emotional journeys. The plotting is superb.
As to the means of travel, rather than hopping aboard some clunky time-travel contraption, our main character, Jane Grey, slip slides away. Her contrivance is a prayer book—more precisely, an antique copy of the Booke of Prayre, which turns out to be the personal property of one Lady Jane Grey.
Our modern-day Jane Grey is a lonely and anxious teen. Her mother is an alcoholic who hasn’t been there for her only child in any meaningful way since Dad died in a road accident. There is another Jane Grey who is equally, if not more, lonely and anxious. Lady Jane Grey has had her nine days on the throne. She is, unbeknownst to her when she first meets her namesake, scheduled for a meeting with the headsman’s axe.
How these two similar yet very different people become friends and give one another courage to face their separate lives is the substance of the story. This book is one I will read again, simply because the writing is so masterful. I am looking forward to reading many more fine books from the pen of Sue MacLeod.
- Monia Kulling, Amazon.ca