What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that despite the potboiler story, readers will get a realistic sense of the difficulties women faced in the 19th century, along with interesting contrasts between modern and Victorian spoken English.
What's the story?
Annie, 15, can't stand her boyfriend Sean's resistance to romance. She's fascinated by the old mansion that's about to be torn down. She takes a last look inside, imagining herself at a sumptuous ball there, when suddenly she falls back into 1895. She wanders all the rooms, fingering the polished wood and rich fabrics, and meets Strat, the son of the mansion's autocratic owner.
The two immediately fall in love. Rich but homely Harriet, however, hopes tomarry Strat, even though he hasn't proposed yet. When he ignores her, she agrees to marry the odious Clarence Rowwels, who wants her for her money. A murdermystery intrudes when Rowwels accuses Irish maid, Bridget, of pushing another servant down the stairs. But Florence, Strat's weak stepmother, saves Harriet and Bridget when she learns that Rowwels is the murderer, and shoots him. Annie travels in time again, but to when?
Is it any good?
This time-travel romance, the first in a series, both entertains and teaches, though it recycles the hackneyed plots and conventions of the potboiler romance. The story is practically lifted from the gothic romances of an earlier era, complete with murder and Irish maids speaking brogue, which destroys any literary pretensions for the book. Caroline Cooney writes authentic teen dialogue, and juxtaposes Annie's modern speech with Strat's proper Victorian English in an almost comic fashion.
But the way in which Cooney depicts the restrictions on women gives the book some value beyond pulp entertainment. Few teenagers realize how far women have come in 100 years. In BOTH SIDES OF TIME upper-class women have no control over their lives -- they are imprisoned in corsets, gasping for breath, fainting frequently, and obeying men in all things. Though somewhat overstated, the cultural history here will open readers' eyes.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the position of women at the time of this story and how it compares with the modern world. What attitudes have been left behind? Which persist today? Interested readers may want to learn more about how women made so much progress in the 20th century.