Time and Regret is the third novel I’ve read by M. K. Tod. I became a fan of her writing after I read and reviewed her first novel, Lies Told in Silence, a couple years ago.
Here’s what Lake Union Publishing says about Time and Regret: “When Grace Hansen finds a box belonging to her beloved grandfather, she has no idea it holds the key to his past—and to long-buried family secrets. In the box are his World War I diaries and a cryptic note addressed to her. Determined to solve her grandfather’s puzzle, Grace follows his diary entries across towns and battle sites in northern France, where she becomes increasingly drawn to a charming French man—and suddenly aware that someone is following her…
Through her grandfather’s vivid writing and Grace’s own travels, a picture emerges of a man very unlike the one who raised her: one who watched countless friends and loved ones die horrifically in battle; one who lived a life of regret. But her grandfather wasn’t the only one harboring secrets, and the more Grace learns about her family, the less she thinks she can trust them.”
Like her first two novels, this is a well written, poignant novel and, as I read, I quickly lost myself in the story. I was moved by Grace’s very different relationships with her grandmother and grandfather, and her grandfather’s experience of life in the trenches during the First World War.
The story deftly contrasts the dilemmas and difficulties in Grace’s modern day life with her grandfather, Martin’s experiences on the battlefield. Although I approached the book as an historical fiction, I found that a larger portion of the story is devoted to her modern day quest to solve the puzzle her grandfather left for her in a letter. But I wasn’t disappointed by this. Both eras were vividly portrayed and I didn’t mind spending time with Grace in the present day.
Once again, as in her first novel, the author examines intergenerational relationships within families: mothers and daughters from the daughter’s perspective, grandparents and grandchildren, mothers and sons from the mother’s perspective. The dynamics of these relationships are timeless and touch the reader’s emotions.
In a way, this is a coming of age story for both grandfather and granddaughter. Martin grows and matures in the trenches and his future is formed by what he experiences while his granddaughter has a chance to start again, taking her life in the direction she wants it to go after she finds herself single again.
The author vividly describes the settings: the chaos of New York, the grandeur of an upmarket New York apartment and the homeliness of a house in the suburbs, as well as the tranquil modern day French countryside and the horrors of World War I trench life. Using every sense, she brings each of these places to life. The battlefields are often uncomfortable, disturbing places for the reader to be but this is necessary for the reader to understand what Martin and his comrades endure.
The novel is an interesting blend of historical war drama, thriller and love story and I enjoyed each element of it. It is at once gripping and tender. The elements of the thriller and the love story both keep the reader turning the pages. This is a complex and entertaining story and I would recommend it equally to historical fiction and contemporary novel lovers.
About M.K. Tod: Time and Regret is M.K. Tod’s third novel. She began writing in 2005 while living as an expat in Hong Kong. What started as an interest in her grandparents’ lives turned into a full-time occupation writing historical fiction. Her novel Unravelled was awarded Indie Editor’s Choice by the Historical Novel Society. In addition to writing historical novels, she blogs about reading and writing historical fiction on www.awriterofhistory.com, reviews books for the Historical Novel Society and the Washington Independent Review of Books, and has conducted three highly respected reader surveys. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and is the mother of two adult children.