What if the villain of your childhood turned out to be someone really rather extraordinary?
Edwardian Brighton. A wide-eyed girl enters Mr Parker’s photographic studio and receives her first lesson about the brand new medium that will shape her future: “Can you think of a really good memory? Perhaps you can see it when you close your eyes. Now think how much better it would be if you could take it out and look at whenever you wanted to!”
2009: Disgraced politician Sir James Hastings is resigned to living out his retirement in a secluded village in the Surrey Hills. He is unmoved when he learns his mother has died at the age of 108. In his mind, he buried her when she abandoned him as a child. Brought up by his father, a charismatic war-hero turned racing-driver, the young James, torn between self-blame and longing, eventually dismissed her as the ‘villain’ of his childhood. Now he inherits her life’s work – an incredible photography collection spanning six decades – and is forced to confront the realisation that his version of the past isn’t even half the story.
Journey across a century of change as one man explores the world through this mother’s eyes and reassembles his own family history.
Lottie Pye, an orphan adopted by an old couple in Brighton, has no desire to work in her parents pie shop but once she meets photographer, Mr Parker, she discovers her life’s purpose. The sadness of “I Stopped Time,” is that Lottie’s photographs only freeze moments, they don’t stop time permanently at a happy occasion. Lottie tells her life story in detail. Confused by the story of her real mother and distressed when Mr Parker is called up to go to war, she boards a train for London, hoping to continue her photography apprenticeship.
In dual time we meet Lottie’s son, James, a reclusive old man who had never known his mother since she left him with his father as a baby. Sir James is not pleased to be left so many boxes of his mother’s photographs, even though she was a gifted photographer. A chance meeting with a young student, Jenny, encourages him to look carefully at the pictures. Images of Brighton on the point of war, are poignant, but he wonders about the identities of some of the more personal ones.
As the story unfolds, we learn a great deal about photographic technique and styles of popular pictures during World War One. It also shows the roles played by women; the domestic servants, the rich idle ladies and those like Lottie trying to forge a career. A slow moving tale which is most vividly described in the persona of Lottie, the novel is both a social commentary and a window into early 20th century history. Not easily comparable to other dual time novels, it is thought-provoking, at times upsetting, but a rewarding book to read.
I Stopped Time on Amazon UK
Hailed by The Bookseller as ‘One to Watch’, Jane Davis writes thought-provoking literary page turners with razor sharp dialogue and a strong commercial edge.
She spent her twenties and the first half of her thirties chasing promotions in the business world but, frustrated by the lack of a creative outlet, she turned to writing.
Her first novel, ‘Half-Truths and White Lies’, won a national award established with the aim of finding the next Joanne Harris. Further recognition followed in 2016 with ‘An Unknown Woman’ being named Self-Published Book of the Year by Writing Magazine/the David St John Thomas Charitable Trust, as well as being shortlisted in the IAN Awards, and in 2019 with ‘Smash all the Windows’ winning the inaugural Selfies Book Award. Her novel, ‘At the Stroke of Nine O’Clock’ was featured by The Lady Magazine as one of their favourite books set in the 1950s, selected as a Historical Novel Society Editor’s Choice, and shortlisted for the Selfies Book Awards 2021.
Interested in how people behave under pressure, Jane introduces her characters when they are in highly volatile situations and then, in her words, she throws them to the lions. The themes she explores are diverse, ranging from pioneering female photographers, to relatives seeking justice for the victims of a fictional disaster.
Jane Davis lives in Carshalton, Surrey, in what was originally the ticket office for a Victorian pleasure gardens, known locally as ‘the gingerbread house’. Her house frequently features in her fiction. In fact, she burnt it to the ground in the opening chapter of ‘An Unknown Woman’. In her latest release, Small Eden, she asks the question why one man would choose to open a pleasure gardens at a time when so many others were facing bankruptcy?
When she isn’t writing, you may spot Jane disappearing up the side of a mountain with a camera in hand.