York , 1577: Hawise Aske smiles at a stranger in the market, and sets in train a story of obsession and sibling jealousy, of love and hate and warped desire. Drowned as a witch, Hawise pays a high price for that smile, but for a girl like her in Elizabethan York, there is nowhere to go and nowhere to hide. Four and a half centuries later, Grace Trewe, who has travelled the world, is trying to outrun the memories of being caught up in the Boxing Day tsunami. Her stay in York is meant to be a brief one. But in York Grace discovers that time can twist and turn in ways she never imagined. Drawn inexorably into Hawise's life, Grace finds that this time she cannot move on. Will she too be engulfed in the power of the past? (from Goodreads).
Time's Echo turned out to be quite an overseas find and a worthy successor to my favorite novels by Susanna Kearsley. Time-slip novels have fairly predictable conventions -the single woman in her late 20s/early 30s works through an emotional problem, usually in a setting new to her that triggers an evocative trip to the past. While some of the plot points in Time's Echo are predictable, there is a surprising amount of suspense - especially since we're given a lot of information about the plot right at the beginning. I can't think of the last novel that built such a convincing sense of dread. I could not stop reading as I watched one of the lead characters fight to build a happy life in Elizabethan York, knowing she probably would not succeed and yet still hoping that she would do so.
Usually, the modern timelines in these time-slips end up being duds, the chapters you skip over to get to the good historical stuff and while the present day York story line can't compete with the vividness and excitement of Elizabethan York, it does hold its own. Both plotlines stays fresh because of the emotional journeys of the two lead characters. Hawise - in the 1570s York timeline - feel especially vivid because she is such a fully realized character.
I especially enjoyed the shifting nature of the time-slipping, which meant that the two story lines aren't always delineated. The past and the present melded together in a way that is rarely done so well in other time-slip novels. Oddly enough, some time-slip novels don't have a great sense of history. In the wrong hands, the time slip convention can make history seem like it is even farther away from our present time. Hartshorne is a writer who engages all of the senses and made Elizabethan York seem alive and always within touch. The sensory detail in this novel is incredible. I was able to enjoy the 1570s portion just on the strength of its depiction of daily life for an ordinary woman. Most of the time we see the lives of queens or a ladies in waiting in historical fiction set in the 16th century - it was a real treat to experience a different but no less eventful kind of life.
I would highly recommend that U.S. readers find a way to buy this from UK booksellers - it's worth the extra few dollars. As soon as I finished Time's Echo, I went online and bought her next time-slip novel, The Memory of Midnight.
Source: Christmas Gift