Arts Reviews

December Book Of The Month: Leaving Time

Hannah Walton-Hughes

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult was published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2014. It is one of her less well-known books. Hannah Walton-Hughes discusses why this should not be the case, its complexity, endearing characters and edge-of-your-seat plot line.

Whenever anyone talks about the author Jodi Picoult, the novel that undoubtedly comes up is My Sister’s Keeper, partly because it is a brilliant book, but also because it was made into an award-winning film. In my opinion, Leaving Time covers all of the best parts of My Sister’s Keeper; the importance of family, the desperation for answers, and the uncertainty about the future, plus so much more.

The story follows thirteen-year-old girl, Jenna Metcalf, as she searches for her long-lost mother Alice, who disappeared under suspicious circumstances ten years before the novel started, at the elephant sanctuary where she worked as a researcher into the memory of elephants. Jenna enlists the help of a psychic, Serenity Jones, who has fallen from fame, and disgraced police detective Virgil Stanhope, who originally worked on her mother’s case. And so the story evolves from there.

My favourite character in this book is Serenity. I love how she becomes something of a mother-figure for Jenna – putting her first and constantly worrying about her safety. She is the open-minded but slightly scatty one, and Virgil compliments this with his unfailing skepticism and attention to detail. It is an unlikely group alliance, but one that fits perfectly within the book.

The concept of memory is consistently alluded to

The flashbacks, narrated by Alice, whilst not quite as engaging as the present day story for me, were nonetheless extremely informative, especially if you are interested in wildlife and elephants in particular! The elephants become characters in themselves; it is fascinating to make comparisons between their emotions/behaviours and our own. The concept of memory is consistently alluded to throughout the novel, both in relations to the elephant, Alice, and Jenna, as she tries desperately to recall more about her past.

Another distinctive feature of Picoult’s writing is how she narrates each chapter from a different character’s perspective. In doing so, we do not only gain insight into Jenna and Alice’s past, but also into Serenity’s, and her journey of discovery into her powers of ‘the medium’, plus the one mistake that led to her ultimate downfall. Virgil also describes how he lost his once shiny reputation; Picoult creates more layered and highly sympathetic characters as a result. By using this technique, it allows her to manipulate the novel in such a way that she can give the reader information about some characters actions and thoughts during certain scenes, whilst also keeping information from us about others. In a novel full of twists and turns, this is a vital narrative technique.

I could not recommend this book more; it has something for everyone

This is a book full of love and loss. It deals with the importance and magnetism of family ties and the power of the human psyche. It is both an accessible book reading-wise, whilst also being highly informative and engaging. Picoult keeps the reader guessing right until the very end, luring us into a false sense of security before delivering its shocking, killer-blow twist of an ending – typical of Picoult’s books. I could not recommend this book more; it has something for everyone, and will make you laugh, cry and make friends with its endearing characters. Go out and buy it!

Hannah Walton-Hughes

Featured image courtesy of Ed Robertson via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

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