Jessie is the 13-year-old daughter of the village midwife who must make a difficult journey to get medical help for the children. Diphtheria epidemic starts in the village of Clifton in 1840, Jessie’s mother explains to her what the adults in the village all know: that the year is in fact 1996.
The inhabitants of the village chose to live as though in the 19th century as an experiment and a showcase. The deception is kept up closely even though there are false mirrors and microphones around. Originally, modern medicines were supplied where needed but they have been stopped, and the children of the village will die if Jessie doesn’t fetch help from the outside world.
Nothing out of the ordinary in terms of style or vocabulary. The story is told from the third-person point of view of Jessie, a thirteen-year-old who has lived all her life in the 1830s, and who has to come to terms with the novelties of the late twentieth century. The transition is handled competently though not brilliantly. The premise is interesting, rather like combining The Truman Show (a film in which every detail of one man’s life is broadcast on TV without his knowing) with the 1900 House (a TV series in which a family volunteers to live in a period house for a month using only the facilities available to people of that era). However, the rest of the story proceeds without excitement and becomes a conventional kid-beats-bad-businessmen story, with the interesting twist at the end as to who is responsible for any harm which has come to the children.
Tim Golden is a computer programmer living in London. He is also the editor of the Good-to-Read website.