Wednesday, 17 February 2016

The Chronicles of St Mary's by Jodi Taylor

Something devastating happened in November and I turned to my mum for some advice, advice about what book I should listen to on audible… Normally I listen to a lot of detective novels: Nicola Upson’s wonderful Josephine Tey novels, the gory Robert Galbraith books and Miss Silver Mysteries. I love them dearly, even though I regularly get so engrossed in them that I scream every time my boyfriend comes into the room. In November I needed something very, very different from these books, I needed comfort. My mum suggested I might like the Chronicles of St Mary’s and she was oh so right.

The Chronicles of St Mary’s belongs to my second favourite audible genre – children’s books for adults (see also: Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London books). These are books for and about adults which share characteristics of children’s literature. The St Mary’s Chronicles are about a group of time travelling historians who live and work at The St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research and hop around the timeline visiting important historical events.

St Mary’s is essentially a boarding school full of adults. It shares many features with the standard boarding school of children’s fiction – hospital wing, library, large grounds with a lake, crazy professors, grumpy gamekeeper and caretaker. But St Mary’s also has a bar. I know where I’d rather go… St Mary’s is made up of Technical Officers, The Security, Historians, Researchers and a whole host of others who work together to get the Historians ready for each mission. The most important part of St Mary’s are the pods – time machines that look like little stone shacks that smell of cabbage, hot electrics and bad plumbing. The historians travel through time in their pods getting into scrapes, avoiding volcanic eruptions, meeting Mary Queen of Scots, and narrowly avoiding death. There are baddies that need outsmarting, the universe to save from paradox and history to investigate.  

The world Jodi Taylor has created is embedded within the real world, the same way that the wizarding world exists in secret within our muggle world. I love this. I want to believe, as I almost did as a child, that all sorts of amazing things are happening in secret all around us, that there’s more to the world than we are aware.

I suppose I should tell you about the characters now! Our girl is Max, real name: Madeline Maxwell, who joins St Mary’s in book 1. She is a short ginger historian with an addiction to chocolate, interest in ancient civilisations and pretty passionate love for Leon Farrell, chief technical officer at St Mary’s. She is fearless, dedicated, clever, funny and loved by everyone – basically, she’s who I wanted to be when I grew up. The only problem with Max is that she is incredibly hotheaded, a massive lightweight and seems to have a serious problem with constipation (my only criticism of the books is Jodi Taylor’s insistence on mentioning this A LOT).

I can’t tell you any more about the books because I don’t want to ruin them. I love them so much. Read them and tell me how much you love them! 

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