The Space Between Time by Charlie Laidlaw #BookReview #BlogTour

There are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on Earth... 
Emma Maria Rossini’s perfect life begins to splinter when her celebrity father becomes more distant, and her mother dies suspiciously during a lightning storm. This death has a massive effect on Emma, but after stumbling through university, she settles into work as a journalist in Edinburgh. Her past, however, cannot be escaped. Her mental health becomes unstable. But while recovering in a mental institution, Emma begins to write a memoir to help come to terms with the unravelling of her life. She finds ultimate solace in her once-derided grandfather’s Theorem on the universe – which offers the metaphor that we are all connected, even to those we have loved and not quite lost. 

I'm delighted to be hosting the blog tour for The Space Between Time today, many thanks to Charlie Laidlaw, Accent Press and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

The Space Between Time is a story divided into three parts, written from Emma Rossini's perspective. Each section is thoroughly engaging and as the novel progressed, I was intrigued by this complicated young woman. Written as a memoir, it's absolutely fascinating to compare the way she initially describes events and the truth in the latter part of the novel when she is finally ready to face up to her past.

The first section of the novel mostly follows Emma's adolescence and although it's a time of change for most people, she definitely has more to come to terms with beyond the usual teenage angst. Her father, Paul Ross is an actor and at the start of the book, the family live in a 'semi-posh' flat in Edinburgh. He is very much a star on the rise and enjoys the increasing attention from the public but Emma's mother, Cat hates the limelight. She is a beautiful woman but clearly socially awkward and struggles with her husband's decision to move to North Berwick. She felt safer in Edinburgh where she could remain anonymous but in a small town where everybody knows everybody, she is suddenly a big fish in a small pond and it doesn't suit her. The young Emma obviously adores her mother and there is an affectionate warmth to the way she describes her flaws.  She has a propensity for swearing - especially at or about her husband which results in some amusing moments where the young Emma also utilises some very colourful language. As Paul Ross becomes a bona fide celebrity, it becomes increasingly obvious that despite Emma's witty, self-deprecating descriptions of events, both she and her mother are deeply affected by his long absences and questionable priorities. Cat is frequently suspicious of his relationships with his co-stars and in her emotionally vulnerable state, her daughter is left feeling that she has a responsibility to protect her mum.

There is a constant sense throughout the book that she doesn't really understand her father and this is mirrored in the relationship between Paul and his own father, a brilliant Italian astrophysicist. His real name is actually Paulo Rossi but he has anglicized it to appeal to a wider audience but in doing so has hurt his father who believes his son is ashamed of his family name. Emma adores her Gramps whose theory on the universe, the Rossini Theorem was originally much derided but latterly has been discovered to potentially hold the key to some important scientific breakthroughs. Despite not sharing his mathematical abilities, Emma includes several discussions about various theories on topics such as quantum physics, dark matter and relativity but they never become too complicated for the layperson to understand and gradually it becomes evident why she is so reliant on her Gramps' theories as she attempts to make sense of her own life.

In the second part of the book, she has left home and found a job working as a journalist. As is often the case with the offspring of celebrities, she is keen to succeed on her own terms but her desire to separate herself from her father goes far beyond wanting to avoid accusations of nepotism. It would appear that she blames him for the tragic death of her mother and their estrangement is her way of punishing him. She still continues to describe her mishaps with a wry sense of humour; from her obsession with the toilet habits of her colleagues to her accidental arrest at a protest to the over-the-top flat renovations which end up surprising her (particularly when she finds a life-sized Dalek in one of the themed rooms) but gradually it becomes poignantly obvious to the reader that this is a young woman who is struggling with her mental health.

During the third section of The Space Between Time, Emma is challenged to write down her experiences as she finds it difficult to talk about them with her therapist. As she finally begins to face up to her own guilt and reconsiders what she thought she knew about her parents, the truth about what really happened in the past is revealed to not necessarily be quite as she documented them. She needs to be able to reconcile herself with the person she was back then and to forgive herself and her parents for the mistakes they all made. The contrast between her youthful recollections and the full reality is heartbreaking at times, especially when I realised how much she has relied on her sense of humour to allow her to falsely believe she was able to cope.

Emma is a wonderful protagonist, I loved her from the very start and through all her difficulties and the moments where it is evident that she is an unreliable narrator, I wanted her to find the peace and solace she so desperately needs. The secondary characters, however, also deserve a mention; her parents' failings may have been laid bare here but they are given their redemptive moments too; her grandparents are delightful and I adored Patsy who is absolutely the best friend everybody needs. I praised the moving, funny and thoughtful writing in Charlie Laidlaw's previous book, The Things We Learn When We're Dead and the same is true here but The Space Between Time, with its convincing, emotional and insightful portrayal of mental health is even better. A touching and honest look at families and the complex emotions of love, guilt and forgiveness, the themes explored will resonate with anybody who has ever had to endure loss. I highly recommended this beautifully written book.

The Space Between Time will be published by Accent Press on 20th June 2019 and can be pre-ordered from Amazon UK, Hive and directly from the publisher's website.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Charlie Laidlaw was born in Paisley and is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh. He has been a national newspaper journalist and worked in defence intelligence. He now runs his own marketing consultancy in East Lothian. He is married with two grown-up children.
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