Time and Again by Jack Finney

Finney, J. (1970). Time and again. New York: Simon and Schuster.

 

If anyone has seen the old Christopher Reeve movie Somewhere in Time , this is the book the movie was based on. Actually I should say it is the book that inspired the movie for they are quite different. As often is the case, I found the book to be much better.

The general idea is that there is an attempt to go back in time using hypnosis. In the movie, the character that makes the time travel attempt is based in Chicago and goes back to 1912 to the Grand Hotel to meet a woman. In the book, Time and Again, the character who goes back is an advertising artist in New York City and he is scooped up as part of a secret government project to attempt this time travel. He goes back to New York City in January of 1882 using the famous Dakota as a basis for going back in time. Unlike the Christopher Reeve character of the movie, the character in the book, Simon Morely, is not going back for a woman—he has other objectives. However, a woman in the past does come into the picture as an important character. I will not spoil the ending of the book for you but like the rest of the story, it is quite different from the movie.

This is such a wonderful book, especially for anyone who has lived or spent a great deal of time in NYC. Simon takes great pains when he goes back to 1882 to describe the differences in great detail. Since he is an artist, he also includes pictures of scenes from New York in the past. It is quite amazing to think of old New York where the tallest buildings are the spires and towers of the churches. Now those same churches are buried in a sea of skyscrapers. We see old NYC through the eyes of Simon as he describes things which excite or terrify him—people riding through central park in sleighs, the arm and torch of the Statue of Liberty in Madison Square before it was assembled in the harbor, a horrible fire which burned down the World Building on January 31st 1882, etc. These are amazing events and fascinating views of a now bustling, overcrowded island city—who would have thought that in 1882 the area up by The Dakota was farmland!