Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 326
In this novel, set in mid-21st-century Oxford, England about time travel to the past, different characters are involved in trying to influence the era to which the experimenters should travel. As complications develop, the exact time becomes a more serious concern.
Early in the novel, the reader learns about political factions among the faculty and conflicting opinions about specific centuries. Professor Dunworthy complains that another professor and administrator, Gilchrist, has chosen the 14th century to which to send his student, Kivrin Engle:
Gilchrist is sending Kivrin into a century . . . that had scrofula and the plague and burned Joan of Arc at the stake.
Additional discussion follows about exactly when the plague became a problem and how to place or “drop” Kivrin accurately at least a few decades earlier than that. The matter of the exact timing becomes crucial when a problem on the present-day end makes it advisable to retrieve her.
Kivrin has been readying herself for the travel. Her preparation involves learning multiple languages, crafts, and farm-related skills:
She had learned Middle English and Church Latin and Anglo Saxon. She had memorized the Latin masses and taught herself to embroider and milk a cow.
After Kivrin transports back to Oxford, the technician, Badhri, is diagnosed with a viral illness so severe it requires his hospitalization; it turns out to be influenza. She might have been exposed, but their arrangement is that she cannot be retrieved for two weeks. While she has many adventures 700 years in the past, the academic team figures out a way to reach her. When Prof. Dunworthy finally makes contact, Kivrin is both glad and reassured.
Kivrin reached out for Dunworthy's hand and clasped it tightly in her own. "I knew you'd come," she said, and the net opened. . . . “I know now . . . that nothing, not the Black Death nor seven hundred years, nor death nor things to come nor any other creature could ever separate me from your caring and concern."
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