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Book Review of The Daughter of Time

The Daughter of Time
The Daughter of Time
Author: Josephine Tey
Genre: History
Book Type: Paperback
maura853 avatar reviewed on + 528 more book reviews

Apart from launching me on a life-long crush on the Last of the Plantagenets (for which I offer no apologies. He didn't do it ...), I guess this book appealed to my 12-year-old self because it was probably the first time I'd read anything that allowed that Received Wisdom on history, as represented by the childish textbooks that Alan Grant first consults, might be dead wrong, and that the evidence, if you make the effort to pursue it methodically, might lead you to very different interpretations.

And aside from the crush on the soulful, doomed King (and it didn't hurt that, IMHO, Richard bears a striking resemblance to a young Tom Courtney, who I also had a massive crush on at the time), it also alerted me to the joy of research -- of digging down, and finding the facts for yourself, from primary sources -- the satisfaction of digging around for yourself, in encyclopaedias and library card catalogues back then, in google now.

But how does The Daughter of Time stand the Test of Time?

I would say, pretty darn ok: like Hitchcock's Rear Window, it is static and limited in space to the hospital room of Inspector Alan Grant, who is confined to bed with a spinal injury received, accidentally, in the line of duty. There isn't a great deal of emotional depth -- if Grant could have died, or could have been permanently crippled by his fall, no one seems bothered to reflect on the "what might have beens." Friends, colleagues and hospital staff float in and out of his line of vision -- but there doesn't seem to be any great depth to these relationships. Actress friend (girlfriend? If so, pretty arm's-length, if you ask me ...) Marta is no Grace Kelly who (in the movie) seemed to really have the hots for James Stewart.

BUT ... that's not what it's about. However "between the lines" it may be, Grant is suffering from a kind of PTSD -- and never far from his imaginings are the "what might have beens" that he could have been permanently disabled, and never again able to put to good use his obvious skills, observational and analytical, as a police detective. That the pitted, cracked hospital ceiling over his head might be his only outlook, forever, and his only entertainment the antics of the medical staff who poke and prod him (and surely have to do much more humiliating things for him), and the pathetically bad popular novels that well-meaning friends have decided are suitable for poor sufferers like himself.

Using those observational and analytical skills to restore the reputation of a long-dead king is not only therapy -- you could say that there are parallels between Grant, bed-ridden and reduced in stature, and a king who (some would argue. At length.) had only the good of his family and his kingdom at heart, and was reduced in stature and reputation, and killed, by those who played the game a bit more cleverly.

He didn't do it. Unless, of course, he did-- another thing I have this book to thank for is the lesson not to trust my own inclinations and prejudices -- evidence! Look at the evidence! To accept that they were different times, and we can never know what what going through the mind of Richard, in those two years and (approximately) 2 months that he was king. Could he possibly have thought it was worth it, doing a truly terrible thing -- to achieve the peace of the Kingdom (which was so nearly within his grasp), and the possibility of ruling as he saw fit, without the interference of the Dowager Queen and her upstart family? Who knows?

But, no. Team Richard ... always.

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