Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Phantom Tree

Title:  The Phantom Tree
Author:  Nicola Cornick
Publication Information:  Graydon House. 2018. 384 pages.
ISBN:  1525805991 / 978-1525805998

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "She saw the portrait quite by chance, or so she thought."

Favorite Quote:  "It is entirely possible to bargain with an enemy if there is something that you both want and so it proved. Thus we were bound together through time."

The Phantom Tree has a little bit of a lot of things in it - England in the 1500s, time travel, the role of women in society, witches, history, adventure, romance, male privilege, and strong, sympathetic characters. What I enjoy most about the book is that the twists and turns manage to surprise me. A few I see coming, but several I don't. This keeps me turning the pages until the very last one. The twists - one in particular - also gets me emotionally. I wish things had turned out differently. That surprises me because I do not feel particularly attached to the character until that point.

Those are my cryptic summary thoughts on a book that has its shares of mysteries.

Alison Bannister sees a portrait claimed to be a previously undiscovered painting of Anne Boelyn. Alison knows better. She knows that the image is of Mary Seymour. Further, Alison knows that the image holds the key to her past. For, Alison is a time traveller stuck in a time that is not hers.

Alison and Mary meet as little girls when both are orphaned and thrown upon the mercies of family members during the 1500s in England. They are thrown together and forced to get along. They do not exactly become friends. Little do they know that their fates are forever entwined, and one will perhaps be the best friend to the other.

Circumstances and sometimes their own naivete and choices create a turbulent childhood. "People with happy families so often don't realize how lucky they are." As teenagers (which was a ripe old age for a girl at that time), things get worse. I leave you to imagine what worse may mean for a young woman without family and backing at that time.

From the very beginning, we know how Alison's story for this time period sort of ends. She finds herself in a different time period and begins a new life. How does she get there? What keeps her there? Why? What becomes of Mary? Having now seen the portrait, what choice will Alison make about the past, the present, and the future? What of her new life, where people don't know that she is from the past?

These are the questions that this book tumbles through as I keep turning pages to see where it goes and what becomes of these girls. Reader beware. Although the main characters are young women, this is an adult book with violence and adult themes and situations.

The mix of historical fiction with time travel works in this book. The time travel seems to go along with the belief in witches and curses prevalent at the time. The book at no time feels futuristic or science fiction like. The time travel simply requires the same suspension of disbelief as putting myself in England in the middle of the 1500s.

Contrasting this premise, the emotions of the book feel real. Alison's quest for the past seems entirely believable even when she has found and created a beautiful new life. Mary's innocence in the face of the connivers that surround her also seems credible. Maybe, all of this happens because I vest in the stories of these characters. Regardless of the reason, this book holds my attention all the way through to the end.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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