The Daughter of Time,
(Inspector Alan Grant #5)
by Josephine Tey
Published in 1951
I was very impressed by The Man in the Queue, the first book in the Inspector Alan Grant series. Impressed especially by the richness of vocabulary, an element you don’t often find these days in the mystery genre.
So I intended to read the other volumes in order, but then EVERYONE was telling me their favorite was #5: The Daughter of Time.
So I decided to listen to you. And I am sure glad I did!
As the book opens, well in fact throughout the book, Alan Grant is in hospital – it seems he fell through a trap-door while pursuing a thief. He is so banged up that he can only lie on his hospital bed, and he is extremely bored. He tries to read, but tires quickly of the newspaper and uninteresting books his friends bring him.
One day, his friend Marta suggests he focuses on unsolved problems in history. Then she remembers his fascination for faces and she brings him portraits of historical figures connected with an enigma. His attention is attracted to a portrait you may all know:
King Richard III.
Whose reputation (spread through Shakespeare for instance) is that of a monster, who killed his two young nephews, among other horrible deeds.
But Alan has a hard time reconciling this portrait with what he’s been told about him.
So now, he completely forgets his boredom and reads all he can on the man, to figure out who he really was.
He is helped in that by a young student Brent who can go to the library to get him documents and help in the research as well.
Follows a wonderful survey of how a historical reputation develops; a closer look at first biographies, contemporary accounts, what they say, and how opinions are made and repeated from then on – with several other examples.
“Tomorrow a whisper may destroy you”
“Grant wondered with what part of their brains historians reasoned”
Tey’s perspective is totally unique: approaching a historical enigma through the eyes, questions, and technique of a modern police inspector. With a close look at important documents (including many quotes).
You will no longer read history the same way after you are done with this book, and before assuming what you read is correct, you might want to do more research on your own.
Rewriting history to fit a political agenda? Does this sound familiar and modern to you? Well, nothing new under the sun.
And if you love England’s history, you definitely need to read it. Though it may dampen somewhat your love for the Tudors!
Beside the above strong points, Tey has a gallery of hilarious hospital staff members, and great dialogs.
Thanks to all of you who encouraged me to read The Daughter of Time.
VERDICT: Unique and fascinating perspective: analyze historical enigmas with the eyes of a modern police inspector.