Review Blog

Apr 15 2013

A ring through time by Felicity Pulman

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Harper Collins, 2013. ISBN 9780732294885
(Age: 12+) Allie is newly arrived on Norfolk Island and proud to be descended from one of the governors of the former penal colony. However, she soon discovers that the convict past of this island is strongly felt by current inhabitants and that her ancestor is universally hated. Worse still, the person who has most reason to hate her ancestor is Noah, the young man to whom she is attracted. Could history really stand in the way of her modern day romance?
For here we have two love stories linked across the generations: the story of Allie and Noah intertwined with that of their ancestors, Alice and Cormac. There is no doubting the emotional force of the historical love story between Alice, the governor's daughter and the Irish convict, Cormac O'Brien. Pulman's writing here is vivid and compelling, she captures beautifully the time period and the sweeping emotions of the young lovers. However, it is easy to forget that this part of the story is being told in the form of Alice's diary; it often seems more like a first person narrative.
Furthermore, the modern day love story pales by comparison. Alice and Cormac had every reason to feel thwarted in their love: as a member of the ruling class, Alice should have had little contact with a convict like Cormac, socially or morally. Their future was always likely to be bleak, even leaving aside Alice's cruel father. By contrast, the divide between Allie and Noah seems a tad forced and lacking in drama: we rarely believe that their family ancestry is likely to be an insurmountable hurdle, if the two teenagers could ever get around to being open with each other.
Nevertheless, Allie is an engaging character and Noah is a likeable young man.  Younger readers will no doubt find the fantasy elements and the historical portions of the novel quite engaging (and a sexual encounter is handled sensitively for this age group). Older readers may find the modern love story a little lacking in depth but the thwarted love story from the past may provide adequate compensation.
Deborah Marshall

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