After arranging a meeting at Waterloo station with a girl sharing her name (after a thoroughly modern bit of ‘Googling’), Jessica is suddenly, at the point of greeting, left standing in what she discovers is the parallel world of her namesake. And we are away, no wasting time, into a 2006 London that is ours but isn’t. Having taken different tracks at historical signal points, it has more the appearance of a Victorian world, class-bound, with, limited access to technology, unrest on the streets and sexual harassment of women. Jessica finds herself working in the rigid hierarchy of a house, secretary to the rich wife of a Government minister but, having arrived in her scanty modern clothes, suspected of being on opium. Casualness of dress and manner are thoughtfully contrasted with the propriety and strictness of this other world which is solidly real rather than quaint. Jessica can’t slot in seamlessly and the security police are soon on to her although it’s hard for her to know whether the people around her are working for or against the government. It’s a wonderfully credible world, both inside the house and on the streets of London, partly because the author makes no excuses for it. There is no time wasted on digressions, explanations for Jessica or the reader; we are treated as serious readers finding out what we can. It’s engrossing and a great read.
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