What an odd book. After reading the first chapter, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to continue with it, but I am glad that I read on. The first chapter does not give a good impression of the book. While Buying Time is not a favourite book, I found certain aspects of it absolutely marvellous. On the other hand, I could not have cared less about our main character, Ed, or his love life, or the time travel. Those parts were formulaic and repetitious. I was, however, invested in the dystopian setup and Ella’s story. The dystopian setup is that the book starts in 2017 – post- Referendum and with the onset of the Trump presidency – and then travels to 2030, by which time Scotland and Wales have seceded, Northern Ireland has again succombed to sectarianism, and England has become a fascist dictatorship ruled by UKIPpers. It was really interesting. Apart from Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet and Jonathan Coe’s Middle England, Buying Time is the only work of “current” fiction I have come across that deals with the projected effects of Brexit. Unfortunately, it does not go into enough detail, to be a true Brexit dystopia. The details that Brown offered were enough, however, to make reading an uncomfortable experience at times. This set off the main story nicely as an escapist (on so many levels) balance to the political imginings of the stories backdrop. To be fair, it was a slight relief to read the book AFTER the most recent US election as at least that part of the story is now (hopefully) straight fiction. As I mentioned, I rather liked certain aspects of it: I liked the setting against the dystopia of a Trump/Brexit era. But this wasn’t a book about politics or political intrigue. Even so, there was a bit of a James Bond vibe to the solution of the mystery, and there was one particular character who absolutely resembled Sean Connery. At least, in my mind he did. It helped that this part of the story was set in Scotland. So, yeah, I read that character with Sean’s voice in my head. It could not be helped. It was fun. The stroy is driven by drama and sadness, but it worked. It was a very sympathetic view. Escapist even. And “escapism” is at the very heart of the story. I loved that the author adjusted his writing to the time travel episodes. I.e. when Ed travels back to the 1990s, it feels like the 90s. When he goes back to the 80s, the writing adjust again and the descriptions actually match the 80s. I really liked that. What didn’t work were the endless episodes from Ed’s point of view that featured his love life. That is, his series of women. I get what the author was trying to do here and how it was part of the book’s structure …. but chrissake this was so mind-numbingly boring. Also, there were plot holes. The ending tries to resolve this, but it’s all tied up a little too neatly and too much like a convenient solution.
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