Barbara Spencer Whilst staying in a 17th Century Manor house, fifteen year old Molly accidentally slips through time and reappears in 1648, towards the end of the Civil War to find she has taken the place of Molly Hampton, the eldest daughter of a Puritan family. Labelling the seventeenth century barbaric, Molly is hell-bent on escaping back to her own life – but now the Manor house is barred to her.
Forced to continue with the charade, Molly meets Richard, supposedly her best friend, only to find herself falling in love with him. Gradually, Molly begins to change her mind believing that she can stay and take Molly Hampton’s place – little realising that danger and disaster lie in wait for her…
Molly is a fairly typical teenager at odds with her world. She lives with her parents who drive her nuts and she tries to avoid them as much as she can. She does ok at school and has a good group of friends, they are all misfits like her. She has a passion for swimming and is good at it, she wants to pursue it as far as she can but her Mum and Dad want her to go to university and study for a more suitable career. Molly does feel frustrated and a bit hard done by, but she is shown early on to have courage (she stands up for a girl being bullied), resourcefulness and a caring side to her.
Away for a weekend swimming competition, she has to stay in a remote Manor house as her father is a history buff and something very mysterious happens. Molly looks at an old picture and suddenly slips through time finding herself lying on the floor of the same Manor house but, as she discovers later, it is now 1648! A bit of a shock to say the least!
Molly finds herself recognised and taken ‘home’ to a Puritan families’ house. Here she begins her very intense first hand history lesson and it doesn’t take her long to learn that this is a tough time to live in. There are only two sets of clothes, the toilet, such as it is, is outside and there is no hot water. Then there are all the jobs that need to be done, the lack of freedom and the tyrant father. Before the end of her first day Molly has endured a punishment the like of which she has never experienced before. Times are indeed very different.
As Molly stays with the family in 1648 she begins to learn about the positive side of this life. She admires the mother and forms a bond with her, completely different to her relationship with her own mother. She enjoys spending time with her newly acquired brother and sisters. Then she meets Richard.
Richard was friends with the other Molly whose place our Molly has taken. Through him she learns about spirited and independent Molly Hampton who defies her father and longs for a life like that which Richard, who lives in the Manor, is entitled to. Our Molly is curious about what has happened to the other Molly but she finds herself with a growing attraction to Richard and this becomes more important to her. Their relationship is what begins to make Molly question everything she knows.
Initially Molly’s highest priority is to get home to the 21st century. but as she develops relationships in 1648 and begins to enjoy parts of her life there, she begins to question whether going home is really what she wants. All this helps her look at her 21st century relationships differently too, as well as the values that are important to her and what is it that really matters.
There are other twists and turns through the story and Molly goes on an interesting journey. The history in this novel is beautifully detailed and it is so easy to imagine Molly floundering in these starkly different surroundings. The look back at the 17th century was the best part of this for me. It would be a great way to introduce younger readers to the delights of historical fiction. Molly’s discovery of the town, trying to use old money and her realisation that there really were witch hunts, religious zealotry and that the wars of the roses impacted everybody all contribute to this.
I enjoyed the mystery side of the book too, with the whole dilemma about how to get back, however I did feel that this was worked out by Molly fairly easily, even if the execution of how to do it was a bit more difficult! That said there was enough to keep me turning the pages and there were definitely plot twists that you couldn’t predict. I liked the way that Molly found out things about Molly Hampton that made the prices fit together differently and that other Molly never knew about herself.
There are some dramatic moments as the story reaches its climax and you should read it to discover if Molly stays or goes! Verdict: Overall a good read, great history and nice to find a YA book set in England too. Reviewed by Helen