23 September 2015 - 6:09 pm

Review: I Stopped Time by Jane Davis

I Stopped Time by Jane Davis

I Stopped Time
by Jane Davis

I got this book as a gift from my parents, who met the author in a bookstore and got her to sign it for me. I love books, so it was a great gift, even though I don’t usually read this sort of thing. My go-to genres for fiction are usually scifi, fantasy, or paranormal, while this is more ‘straight’ fiction, with a realistic historical element. I have been trying to read wider than my usual go-tos lately, so I thought I’d give I Stopped Time a go.

I was pleasantly surprised, enough that I was moved to write a review about it. So here you go! Enjoy.

In a nutshell

I Stopped Time is the story of Lottie and her son James. As a young woman, Lottie left her husband and baby son, and James never knew his mother. After Lottie dies at the ripe old age of 108, she leaves James her photography collection, which documents her life. Through these photographs, James has the chance to find out who his mother really was and why she left him.

Star rating: 4/5


I’m not going to give too much away here, except to say that the book is nicely paced and carries you along right to the end. It moves between the early years of Lottie’s life in turn-of-the-century Brighton and WWI London, and the elderly years of James’s life in 2008. It has some ups and downs, and it’s more about the characters discovering themselves than it is a romance or about falling in love with someone else.

The book manages to hold a few surprises and unknowns, despite the time disparity. We may already know that Lottie lives to 108, but how she gets there is still a discovery for the reader. I suppose it helps that it’s a discovery for her son, too.

On a logistical note, the chapters are all clearly marked so you know who is talking and where and when you are. I’ve seen so many questions from writers about how to handle multiple first-person POVs: this is an example of how to do it well. It’s easy for readers to follow, which is really the key when doing this sort of thing.

The only thing I would note about the plot is that Lottie’s story is heavily weighted towards the start of her life. We don’t get much of what happened to her after she left James and his father, and I definitely wanted to know more about it. We do get the most important parts shown to us; I guess I just wanted more!


This is a very character-driven piece, and Davis writes them well. Lottie is a realistic girl and becomes a realistic woman: flawed, immature, maturing, headstrong, uncertain, ignorant, smart, and learning. She feels like a person who might have existed in the world, rather than an idealised version of a woman, or a flat caricature.

She has some of the deep-seated misperceptions about herself that many women have but that you seldom see in fiction: for example, how she has no idea about how to judge her own appearance in terms of beauty, the idle rich confuse her, and she has complicated feelings about sex that evolve in an understandable way through the story. She also has a curious attitude towards duty and happiness: it forces her to leave her family and makes sure she stays gone, but not, perhaps, in the way you would expect. Her love of photography, and in particular how she photographs nude women, is interesting and nuanced.

Her story has an authentic feel to it that I love.

Likewise, James feels like a whole person, though he’s less accessible than Lottie. He starts the book very closed off, and as the story progresses, he slowly opens up: first, with the young woman who is helping him to analyse and understand his mother’s photographs, and through her and her own struggles with family, he opens up towards his now-deceased mother.

His story is more subtle than Lottie’s. He has to work past his resentment and bewilderment towards a mother who abandoned him; in that way, this 80-something man is still a little boy, wanting to know why his mother didn’t love him enough. This creeps out through the narrative in understated ways; some of James’s story is in what he avoids saying or admitting.

His journey is one of my favourite things about the book, especially the note that it ends on. I won’t say what it is, except that the final image of the book is perfectly crafted and entirely appropriate for the story being told. Beautifully done.

Other than the two main characters, there are plenty of rich people populating the story, from lovable Alfie to photography student Jenny. It’s hard not to fall in love with each of them. (Alfie still breaks my heart.)


It’s hard to know what to say about the writing: it was very clean and fairly invisible. I mean this in a good way: the writing didn’t get in the way of the story; it simply carried me along on a smooth ride. The language was lovely and the descriptions were evocative. Lottie’s story felt authentic for its period, and James’s felt like it was in a contemporary English village (which it was).

I don’t have anything particular to point out about the writing here except for the ending: as I mentioned above, the book ends on a wonderful image. It doesn’t bother to flourish or trail off into the distance; it just ends at a good and appropriate stopping-place, and leaves you with a good taste in your mind.

Would I recommend it?

Absolutely. It’s nicely written, a touching story, and a pleasant way to spend a few hours. I will warn that those with softer shells will likely cry in a couple of places. It’s worth it, so give it a go.

Cross-posted on Goodreads.

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