The Other Times of Caroline Tangent by Ivan D Wainewright
A list of music concerts that a fan would have loved to attend. Early Beatles, Jimmy Hendrix and others. Memorable festivals – Knebworth, Glastonbury, significant moments in music history. For those committed to following popular music in the second half of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first could come up with an impressive list of concerts that would have been beyond exciting to experience at first hand. Jon and Caroline come up with such a list, but instead of just wishing, Jon has invented a time machine that enables them to temporarily leave suburban life for the site of musical events that made history. It is an incredible idea, and makes this almost seem like a fantasy novel, but in fact it is a contemporary novel that feels completely reasonable. Firstly, Caroline in particular is seen in the context of friends and life as an artist which seems everyday. She has memories with Jon of events which changed their lives and are especially realistic. Secondly, there is much about the care they must take not to allow anyone to know what they are doing , even those who are similarly obsessed with music. Thirdly, there is what they call the butterfly effect, of the risk of a seemingly small action they commit while in the past has a massive effect on the future to come.
Despite the fantastic idea at the centre of this novel, it really emerges as a novel of people in relationships in 2021 rather than science fiction. It also shows a deep understanding and affection for the great popular music events of the past which made me wonder which concerts I would love to witness. The research into the simple logistics of attending a concert in a different time and place is impressive, including the problems of obtaining the physical money needed as well as the problems of finding a place to appear and disappear near enough to the venue in the correct clothing. This is such a well thought out and researched book which flows beautifully around the people and events that I really enjoyed. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this unusual book.
The book opens with a glimpse into Caroline and Jon in Paris, October 1935.They are revelling in the music, the musicians that they have only heard of but now can see and hear, and the wine that would have been so expensive except that they are paying 1930s prices with resources from 2021. They are fully in the place and time, and yet know they can return into their own lives when they wish, only having been away from where they are expected to be for a matter of moments. The reader encounters a group of close friends that surround Caroline and Jon, each with their own lives and concerns. Caroline is especially close to Bee, while Andrew is another music fan, but can get quite aggressive with Jon’s enthusiasm for vinyl records. They have a history of partnership but also some difficult confrontations. The next few months are significant ones for Caroline and Jon; they have decisions to make not only limited to which concert to secretly attend.
This is a really good read which has real suspense as well as posing some fascinating questions to readers. It is a well written and extremely cleverly plotted novel which I read avidly in order to discover what would happen next. It combines a real sense of atmosphere for the various times and places involved, as well as characters who maintain their roles throughout the narrative. The elements of time travel, music events and people’s lives and choices come together to make an irresistible read which is unusual and fascinating.