Book Review: The Time Traveller and the Tiger  

by Tania Unsworth
Published by Zephyr

Elsie is sent to stay with her rather odd, and very old, Great Uncle John because her parents are working. She finds a tiger skin rug in his spare room and a strange plant in his greenhouse. Suddenly she is transported to India in 1946 where John, then 12, is about to shoot a tiger. Naturally –  a thoughtful, imaginative, feisty 21st century 11 year old – she tries to stop him.

It’s a page turner on lots of levels. First we are made to think about the world a tiger inhabits and what its “thoughts” are and that leads to loving respect for these magnificent – now endangered – creatures on almost every page. Then there are the colonial issues. John’s family is part of the Raj which is about to end. His friendship with Mandeep, son of an employee is one sided although eventually Mandeep gets a gloriously constructive, upbeat happy ending.

A powerful Enid Blyton element means that three children discover, and plot to overturn, the dastardly doings of ghastly, immoral adults. It works every time. And the philosophical strand is engaging too. Can you actually change history by going back to the beginning and starting again?  Well you can if it’s fiction. This novel is gently post-modernist in that everything is different at the end because Emily has time travelled back 74 years and changed the narrative for the better.

I found this novel so compelling that I read on until 12.40. I simply had to finish it. And then I couldn’t settle to sleep for thinking about it. I shall give my review copy to my 9 year old granddaughter.

Review by Susan Elkin