Another kind of "Then and Now" books

While waiting for Eve’s “Then and Now” book thread to load, I wondered what she meant. It turned out she meant books with photographs showing a place now and in the past. I love those too.

But I’d also like to discuss the kind of Then and Now book I thought Eve might have meant - the kind of novel where the protagonist goes back in time to a period which is described at length in rich, and hopefully authentic, detail.

The classic one is Jack Finney’s Time and Again, where the protagonist goes back to late 19th century New York City. The book has a number of wonderful pictures of the New York our hero sees. Eve, if you have never read it, I think you’d love it. (A little warning - I found the sequel which Finney wrote many years later, From Time to Time, very disappointing.)

They’re out of print, but if any of you like this type of book, Alan Appel wrote some wonderful ones. The first one was best, Time After Time. In this book, our hero - a historian himself - goes back in time to revolutinary Russia. In Twice Upon a Time he goes back to mid-19th century America and meets Mark Twain. In Till the End of Time, its World War II and the Pacific.

Connie Willis wrote an excellent book like this, the Doomsday Book, about a modern Englishwoman who goes back in time to a an English village stricken by the Black Death.

Then there are the Outlander books. I’m ambivalent about them. They aren’t really of the same high quality as the others, imho, and since Diana Gabaldon commits some anachronistic howlers at the beginning of the first book in describing the 1946 Britain her character leaves from to go to 18th century Scotland (and eventually France and America, in later books), I fear that she may not be completely accurate about the 18th century either. But she’s a good storyteller. I regard the books as a bit of a guilty pleasure. There’s a little too much romance-novel passion and (in the first book, especially) some excessive violence inflicted mostly on our hero, but they’re a good read.

Is there anyone else out there who enjoys this type of “Then and Now” book? Have I missed any good ones?

Jack Finney is the only time-travel writer I like. Something about, I dunno, maybe his historical research plus the “gosh-gee” quality. I can read his stuff over and over.

If you haven’t tried the Appel books, I think you might like them too. A fellow Finney-fan introduced me to them.

I don’t like most time travel books either. They fail as historical fiction, and they’re usually not very good science fiction, either. And the authors frequently try to be funny, with unpleasant results.

Household Gods, by Judith Tarr and Harry Turtledove, is quite good (woman from Los Angeles goes back to Roman Pannonia).