The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas
Four female scientists have combined their unique talents to achieve their ultimate goal; time travel. Margaret is a cosmologist; Barbara is a mathematician and specialist in nuclear fission; Grace is an expert in thermodynamics and Lucille makes radio waves travel faster than light.
Once their experiments with rabbits were confirmed as successful, they moved on to human trials. They make a number of small journeys together, ensuring the machine’s success before inviting the media to report on their achievements.
All of their test journeys go ahead without a hitch but on the day the press are invited to film the team at work, Barbara begins to show signs of confusion. During a filmed interview she begins to stumble over her words, she loses control of her speech and falls apart on camera. She’s whisked away from the media circus and is diagnosed as suffering from manic depression.
Margaret instantly distances herself from Barbara, seeing her breakdown as a threat to their work and future funding. After a bit of persuasion, she convinces Grace and Lucille to leave Barbara alone, insisting their friendship would only cause her to re-live the trauma, damaging her health further.
The three women found an organization around their discovery known as the Conclave, taking their place in the history books, and Barbara is either forgotten or remembered as the ‘mad’ one.
Ruby has always been warned by her mother never to talk to her Granny Bee (Barbara) about her involvement in time travel. For Ruby it has been the elephant in the room ever since she could remember; how could she not want to ask about something so fascinating?
One day, while visiting her Granny Bee, an origami rabbit is left outside the house. Once unfolded they realise the paper is actually a death certificate from the future. But who left it? And why?
On her first day of volunteering at a toy museum, Odette is entrusted with opening the building to the public. She’s greeted by an overwhelming stench and sees a dark red liquid leaking out from under a door but tries to stop her imagination from jumping to conclusions. When she manages to force the locked door open she’s faced with a horrifying scene. Suffering from multiple gunshot wounds, a woman’s body is slumped across the floor. Odette is traumatized by her discover and it takes her a while to wonder who could have killed this woman and disappeared when the door was locked from the inside?
The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas is a female-led novel and genre-crossing mix of science fiction, family drama and murder mystery. It barely took me a couple of pages to know this was going to be a great read. It’s been a long time since I read a book from some many different women’s perspectives and it was so refreshing for them to be different ages, sexualities and set in different timeframes.
The book is made up of very brief chapters at different times and from different character perspectives. This sounds far more complicated than it is thanks to Kate Mascarenhas’ skill at creating beautifully rounded characters. I’m incredibly bad at reading books with too many characters, if they’re not fully formed in my head I keep having to flick back, get annoyed and usually end up giving up. The Psychology of Time Travel introduces you to lots of characters but provides you with memorable traits, physical descriptions and relationships so they’re not only memorable but fully formed individuals in your mind.
A number of time travel rules are set in the early chapters; most importantly being travellers can never change the outcome of history, therefore, travellers can visit a different version of themselves without any negative consequences. This opens up a world of experiences not often investigated in time travel novels, where people can go back and interact with themselves, re-live moments or visit loved ones.
At the heart of this novel, under the wonderful characters and scientific advances, is a locked room mystery. I’m not going to go into this in too much detail because no one likes big spoilers but the details surrounding the murder and how it happened are superbly put together.
It’s easy to see why this novel has already been picked up for a TV series adaptation. The characters leap off of the page and instantly find a place in your heart. It might not be one for hardcore science fiction readers as it’s more character driven than technology driven but I found the mix a perfect partnership. I devoured this within a couple of (very busy) days as I found myself picking it up at every opportunity, desperately trying to squeeze in a few more moments with these ladies.
Overall The Psychology of Time Travel is an incredible novel that I’ll be recommending to everyone who’ll listen. It’s an intelligent and heartfelt novel that was a joy to read from the first page to the last.
If you like this then you’ll love The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin