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4.8 out of 5 stars
I Stopped Time: A Historical Novel
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 2 May 2013
Jane Davis is truly a writer's writer. She has taken an entire century - a feat in itself worthy of Ken Follett or Gabriel Garcia Marquez - and covered it with the richness of her characterisation, presenting a family that is beautifully flawed, brimming with affection, and inimitably human.

I Stopped Time concerns the lives of Lottie Pye and her son James Hastings. A young woman in the early-twentieth-century, she narrates her tale from her deathbed over a hundred years later, retrospectively apologising to the son she never knew. Her life as a Brighton photographer who seizes the chance for success and moves to London before the First World War, Lottie constantly feels the call of home, and eventually returns to the life she knew as a child, with her adoptive family and the friends she holds so close, leaving behind her gentleman husband and a son who is still in nappies.

This narrative is interspersed with her son's own story, as he is faced with all of the photographs his mother has ever taken. It is through the work of a woman connected to him only by DNA that he learns about his mother, and about himself, none of which could be accomplished without the help of Jenny Jones - the young woman who persuades the lovable yet curmudgeonly old politician.

When reading the novel, one cannot help suspect that Davis' characters were alive on more than the pages of I Stopped Time. This is something only the writer will know, but one has to admire her ability to transcend authorial intrusion and present the reader with a set of voices - from a young girl in 1910 to an old man in 2009 - so unique and characteristically identifiable that the book, rather than a work of fiction, reads like a diary. Such three-dimensionality is rare, and, in I Stopped Time, it promotes a true sense of kinship with people that may not even have existed.

With major themes surrounding the emancipation of women into work, the love of family, abandonment, the terror of war, the mistakes of love, and the comforts of home and a true purpose, Davis' narrative scope is as ambitious as her time frame. Still, with plot motifs that develop over time, and with a narrative pace that moves like the tide, rushing towards you with new information that you didn't see coming, and then allowing you to process by taking a tranquil pause on the horizon, she is not out of her depth.

Sticking with tradition, Davis motivates her themes through the actions of her characters, and it is through this form that the plot advances understanding of each protagonist in turn. As James discovers more about his mother, he relaxes his severity towards the only young person in his life (Jenny), and as Lottie learns about her wants and needs through her photographs, she too relinquishes her grip on the future she had planned, allowing herself to be taken by the tide of the future her heart longs for.

Intellectually and emotionally engaging, Davis' novel is sure to go on to do great things. The evocative setting of wartime London is set in opposition to the tranquility of seemingly untouchable Brighton, but both places bear their scars beneath the surface. This novel is not merely a romp through the twentieth-century, it is a work of supreme harmony and rhythm. Taking its cue from the sea that calls to Lottie while she is away, it returns again and again to its central themes, eventually sweeping you into the current of understanding and allowing you to see the world from a whole host of perspectives. It is for her determination to succeed that I will remember Lottie Pye, but it is for I Stopped Time that I will remember Jane Davis.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 18 February 2013
A totally enthralling & emotive story that left me wishing my train journey to & from work were longer; I was strangely grateful when there were delays!

I loved the way the chapters flitted between the 2 main characters; Lottie & her 'unknown' son James, & how the story unfolded decades apart. Using the legacy of Lottie's photos in her son's later years as the window to the past he never knew had a gripping & somewhat emotional effect for me, the reader. A very clever concept by the author.

I truly felt the frustration (& anger) of a very young woman having to make incredibly difficult decisions & endure terrible circumstances that would affect her entire life, not to mention that of her son's. The compelling belief that Lottie felt she had no choice than to maintain her decisions for nearly another 90 years with such awful consequences, is so hard to comprehend with today's choices & women's rights. There were times when I felt such a strong urge to step back in time to give someone a piece of my mind!

The detail Jane captured from the 1920s & the contrast of 2009 was wonderful; I could visualise her chapters with such clarity. Her references to Brooklands Museum & race track had a particular resonence for me as I got married there last year.

This story really makes you think about (& shudder at) the things people hide, rightly or wrongly, from their loved ones - even now.

Another fantastic book from Jane. Can't wait for the next one!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 12 March 2014
I hate reviews with plot spoilers. Don't expect a narrative - if you want that read the book. I can tell you that as a bookseller I am delighted that Jane has agreed to a signing in my shop. Her episodic style, progressing both the plot and characters is finely honed and her text is always a joy and easy to read. The locations in this book are well known to me and come fresh off the pages as if I were there. I understand that the life and career of Lee Miller had a great influence on this work which gives a fascinating insight into changing social mores over the last 100 years, whilst showing that in essence people are so similar form generation to generation.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 17 February 2013
This is the first time I have written a review for any product/book on the internet, but thought I would let you know that I have just finished reading I Stopped Time by Jane Davis. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The book is seen through the eyes of two people, a mother & her son though the mother left when the son was still a baby and had no contact from then on (apart from one chance meeting whilst the son was still a young boy). The mother became a photographer and did that for a living. As photography is my passion, the book was very interesting as Lottie (mother/photographer) took up photography as a child, almost a 100 years ago.

This is the 2nd book I have read by Jane Davis. The first, Half Truths & White Lies was excellent. I read that in paperback. What I like about her books is that there is no bad or offensive language - something that you cannot say about a lot of books these days. Jane also she writes with such feeling and giving get attention to detail that it makes you care about the characters in the book.

I am now looking forward to starting These Fragile Things also by Jane Davis which is sitting on my Kindle waiting to be read.

I would recommend this book to anyone.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 26 February 2013
I normally read crime or thrillers on my long train commute, mainly because I find so few books from other genre that blot out the hassles of commuting.

I enjoy photography and live in Brighton so was recommended this. Pleased that I was.

However, you don't need to have these in common to enjoy this book. Credible storyline that kept my attention and provided an insight into how society has changed. A good yarn.

Have now bought another book by the same author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 11 March 2014
From its intriguing title to its perfect closing line (don't cheat and read it first!), this is a compelling story cleverly skipping between two time frames, primarily the story of the mother of a retired MP, but also weaving in the impact her choices made upon his whole life, though he barely knew her.

Things I liked best about this novel:

- fabulous title and cover
- well-developed characters, not just the two key roles but lots of bit parts too
- feisty heroine
- affectionate and evocative descriptions of Edwardian Brighton providing a memorable sense of place, at times cinematic (and what a great film this book would make)
- sensitive descriptions of the photographic process and its results
- clear depiction of the effect of war on ordinary people
- thought-provoking theme of how the development of photography affected ordinary people as well as history's bigger picture
- stunning writing, with points of brilliance scattered effortlessly throughout
- dignified and fulfilling ending for both key characters

The only things that irked me about the book were a couple of plot points which I couldn't believe (not saying which here, for fear of spoiling the plot for anyone), but the rest of the book was so masterful that I easily suspended my disbelief and just kept reading.

The kind of book that will stay with the reader for a very long time and continue to affect their world view long term, particularly whenever they see old photographs. I will definitely be reading more of this author's work.

Disclosure: the author, whom I do not know personally, sent me a copy of this book in return for an honest review.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
With two parallel narratives this story unfolds to examine two lives-- the mother and the son and the effects of society's expectations of women on a mother and her child. Lottie is drawn to photography and its ability to 'stop time' and capture a moment, but in early 20th century Brighton it isn't a role that women can assume. When war intervenes and her one supporter is seemingly lost in the war, Lottie tries to make her way in London where the traps and obstacles that a woman bent on a career can face trip her up, sometimes in unexpected ways. The writing is insightful and convincing and Lottie's painful story and her son's lingers on after the book is finished.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 26 February 2013
I loved this book for so many reasons and really wished my commute was even longer than it already is. I am pretty hard to please and came across a lot of rubbish on my kindle, but this is just magical. I was captivated by Lottie's beautifully told story. What an excellent writer!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 24 June 2014
I loved this beautifully-written novel. It has unusual setting and themes - 1900s Brighton is beautifully evoked, and the story is set in an era when photography and motor cars were developing technologies. Lottie is an engaging character faced with many difficult choices as she struggles to gain her independence. For Lottie and her estranged son, James, there is a painful and ultimately uplifting journey to the truth about their own backgrounds, with many family secrets to unravel and some surprises along the way.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 August 2014
A wonderful tale of a son re-evaluating everything he thought he knew about his mother.
Two lives: Lottie Pye, growing up in Edwardian Brighton, and her son, James, who faces a lonely old age. Until he takes delivery of his mother’s legacy – her photographs – and with the help of young Jenny, begins to make a new picture from the jigsaw of images.

Along with James, we discover Lottie via perceptions of the woman, the wife, the photographer, the image. And as if by accident, he discovers much more about himself. This delicately paced book allows individual stories to unfold and reflect on one another, challenging the reader to decide on a definite reality.

This novel has charm in abundance, due to its acutely observed settings and period detail, intriguing characters who do not give up their secrets easily, and a glorious level of background detail. I love books that teach me something, and the insights into photography here are a delight.

This is a book you resent having to put down.
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