The Daughter of Time — Review by Carole

Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time held many surprises for me. You may be thinking, "Well, Carole, that's because it's a mystery" and you would be partly right, but this was an interesting read for many reasons.

My first surprise was learning about Tey to begin with. Chris gave me the book, saying that she read it in college and remembers liking it. I was immediately intrigued by the title (more about that in a minute). I confessed to never having heard of Tey; when I read the foreword by Robert Barnard, a fellow mystery writer, I learned that Tey, back in the day, rivalled Agatha Christie in popularity. Tey died relatively young at 55, so she didn't have the time to create her legacy and firmly secure her place in the genre. She remains in print, however, and several of her novels have been made into films. See the news story about her under Bookish News.

Her detective is Scotland Yard's Grant, and in The Daughter of Time he lies convelescing in a hospital after a criminal-pursuing chase ends badly. Bored beyond belief and depressed by his forced inactivity, Grant is aided by his actress friend who brings him many photos to pore over from the British Museum, courtesy of a researcher friend of hers. Grant finds himself drawn to one in particular, so much so that he temporarily forgets his own misery.

The face that captivates his attention is that of Richard III, the "monster" who had his nephews killed to ensure that he would wear the crown of England. Or did he? Tey proceeds to skillfully weave a tale of historical intrigue while Grant uses his deductive reasoning to pull apart what is real and true from what has become accepted as such. Tey presents a revolving door of characters to interact with Grant as he puzzles through what he knows, what he learns in books, what he dismisses out of hand because it is secondhand knowledge, and what those around him know and think.

The second surprise for me was how Tey was able to present a relatively brief novel while also providing a great deal of English history in a captivating manner. She presumes the reader knows very little about it, and she explains in detail who has claims to the throne, who is stirring up trouble, and what is at stake for England at the time. Not dull in the least, The Daughter of Time takes us on a journey through English history without ever once leaving Grant's hospital room.

The book surprises with its logical approach to an emotional time in history and its revelations that people are inclined to believe what they want to believe, even when facts tell them they are wrong.

Lastly, I was surprised by the title. The Daughter of Time caught my attention right away, but the page just before the foreword has the complete quote: "Truth is the Daughter of Time." Isn't that a wonderful line? In the book, it is attributed as an old proverb, but when I searched online, I found that is attributed to Francis Bacon. The Bacon quote is fleshed out a bit more: "Truth is the Daughter of Time, Not of Authority."

I recommend reading this little book. I'm off to track down some more of Josephine Tey's mysteries. I want to see what other surprises she has in store for me.


Chris said...

Carole, I am so glad you liked it! After the debacle known as The Last Templar and the faulty memory of Benefits, I was a little concerned.

I am going to have to re-read the novel. I am a huge fan of English history and the English monarchy (the Tudors particularly, but also the House of Plantagenet (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plantagenet).

Another good source for historical novels is the Boleyn books by Philippa Gregory. I enjoyed both of them!

yoodi said...

I had read Daughter of Time years ago and saw that our library had an audio copy read by Derek Jacobi. It's wonderful. He's the perfect person to read it to you. After listening to it, I decided to google to see if others still appreciate this book. Glad to see you're out there.