Title: The Kingdoms
Author: Natasha Pulley
Genre: Magical Realism/Time slip
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Published: 3rd August 2021
Synopsis: Come home, if you remember.
The postcard has been held at the sorting office for ninety-one years, waiting to be delivered to Joe Tournier. On the front is a lighthouse – Eilean Mor, in the Outer Hebrides.
Joe has never left England, never even left London. He is a British slave, one of thousands throughout the French Empire. He has a job, a wife, a baby daughter.
But he also has flashes of a life he cannot remember and of a world that never existed – a world where English is spoken in England, and not French.
And now he has a postcard of a lighthouse built just six months ago, that was first written nearly one hundred years ago, by a stranger who seems to know him very well.
Joe’s journey to unravel the truth will take him from French-occupied London to a remote Scottish island, and back through time itself as he battles for his life – and for a very different future.
England, 1898 – Napoleon won the Napoleonic Wars and France took control of England. The British are slaves to the French. One day, Joe Tournier is found at a train station with no memory, and the only clue to who he is – a postcard from 1805 with a single message:
Come home, if you remember. M
Joe wonders who the postcard is from. What is this Eilean Mor lighthouse on the front of the postcard? Who lives there and why have they written to him? in 1807, Joe travels to the Outer Hebrides to find out what the note is about, where he meets Missouri Kite – and sees the lighthouse from two angles: a crumbling ruin in the past, and the new lighthouse built six months before he received the postcard. And so begins a curious timeslip journey that takes us back and forth between the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries as the Napoleonic Wars take place, and the battles that led to the world Joe first finds himself in. But what happens as Joe steps back in time, and slowly, things start to change? What are the consequences? Will he ever see Alice and Lily again, albeit still with the tag of being a slave? Or will his journey see the family he has, the life he has, altered forever? Throughout the novel is the mysterious M – is it Madeline, or someone else?
The mystery about his past and where he comes from and his identity plays out throughout the novel as Joe meets various people in different times and places as he seeks to find out who he is and how people know him, and why. This is a book that is intricately plotted and cleverly stitched together to create a complex world that takes place across several timelines and works its way from a world that we could only ever imagine the world that we might be more familiar with, but only time will tell if Joe is able to get back to those he knows or if his life will be changed forever.
It captures a sense of wonder and mystery whilst examining the what if questions we face from time to time, wondering how things would be different if…what would the outcome of this be if X happened instead of Y? Natasha Pulley pulls history, magical realism and time slip together in a complex narrative that takes the reader on a mystical and whimsical journey that explores the complexity and wonder of the memory and how we react to the world around us, and the relationships we value – in whatever form these may come, and the ultimate choices we make when things become clear.