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Sunday, June 23, 2024

Review: The Ministry of Time

Title: The Ministry of Time

Author: Kaliane Bradley

Publisher: 14th May 2023 by Hachette Australia & New Zealand, Sceptre

Pages: 356 pages

Genre: General Fiction (Adult) | Romance | Sci Fi & Fantasy

Rating: 4 crowns


A boy meets a girl. The past meets the future. A finger meets a trigger. The beginning meets the end. England is forever. England must fall.

In the near future, a disaffected civil servant is offered a lucrative job in a mysterious new government ministry gathering 'expats' from across history to test the limits of time-travel.

Her role is to work as a 'bridge': living with, assisting and monitoring the expat known as '1847' - Commander Graham Gore. As far as history is concerned, Commander Gore died on Sir John Franklin's doomed expedition to the Arctic, so he's a little disoriented to find himself alive and surrounded by outlandish concepts such as 'washing machine', 'Spotify' and 'the collapse of the British Empire'. With an appetite for discovery and a seven-a-day cigarette habit, he soon adjusts; and during a long, sultry summer he and his bridge move from awkwardness to genuine friendship, to something more. 

But as the true shape of the project that brought them together begins to emerge, Gore and the bridge are forced to confront their past choices and imagined futures. Can love triumph over the structures and histories that have shaped them? And how do you defy history when history is living in your house?

My Thoughts

With so much publicity, I was intrigued to delve into The Ministry of Time. When a book is described as a time travel romance, spy thriller, workplace comedy’, how can one not be drawn to this eclectic mix. Well I’m here to say, for the most part, author Kaliane Bradley has pulled it off. It is refreshing, fun and so unique with all those genres including a mix of fiction and nonfiction. Quite the conquest really. 

‘Why did you bring me back from the dead? Why did you come into my life like this?’ ‘We … we saved you.’

There are many things I enjoyed about this book. Firstly the twist on time travel which focuses on bringing people from the past to the present and the current cultural challenges they face. Issues such as racism, colonisation, feminism, gender equality, climate crisis are all faced with both respective fact and humour. 

‘There are buildings everywhere. No horizons. Only buildings and people as far as the eye can see, and great metal towers strung with rope. Huge grey roads, covered in metallic traffic. There’s no space here. How can you breathe? Is all of England like this? The entire world?’

Secondly, I loved the relationship between the four main characters as it seemed so genuine. Three came from the past - a failed Arctic expedition, the Somme of WWI and a London plague victim - and the bonding with the ‘bridge’ (current day person) was really heartfelt. There were many funny, interesting and sad moments that they faced together. 

‘Everyone was paddling in their own era-locked pool of loneliness.’

My only criticism involves the ending - it was fast, a bit of an info dump which came across as awkward and a little unclear. Perhaps Kaliane was trying to tie too many loose ends together all too quickly. The story - up to that point - had been well paced with a perfect genre blending. Now, it was unfolding in a fashion that needed to be more evenly distributed throughout or extend the overall length of the narrative. Nevertheless, this is a highly enjoyable read with definitely a little something for everyone given the masterful combination of genres. 

‘Time,’ she said, ‘is a limited resource. Like all of our resources. You only get to experience your life once … And yes, you can go back and change the details, a little, but there’s a limit to how often. Every time you dig a new pathway into time, you exhaust a little more of it, and if we go back too often and mine too deeply in the same place, again and again, pulling history from the same coal seam, it will collapse. It will obliterate us, like a black hole. You have to get it right.’

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This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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