In the last week of August, as I jetted off for Rome, I decided to finally give Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor, the first book in the Chronicles of St Mary’s, a go – hoping for something light and fun to enjoy on the flight; and I was not to be disappointed!
It all begins, when Madeleine Maxwell (known as Maxwell) is urged, by her mentor, to apply for the seemingly innocuous role of Historian at the rather eccentric St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research. However, Maxwell is to discover this is not your usual, dull desk job, but instead an opportunity of a lifetime. St Mary’s actually has a way for the Historians to physically travel back in time to observe, document, and to try to find the answers to many of History’s unanswered questions … whilst trying not to tamper with the timeline or to die in the process, as one wrong move and History will fight back – to the death – and it is soon made clear that it’s not just History they’re fighting.
I thought it was an absolute hoot travelling with Maxwell and her fellow Historians from 11th century London to a field hospital in World War I, and from dinosaur watching in the Cretaceous Period to the destruction of the Great Library at Alexandria. But nothing is to be straightforward as wherever Historians go, chaos seems to follow! While we don’t spend a large amount of time in each period, I felt Taylor described them adequately and made them feel real and distinct for me.
I also loved the little, time travel ‘pods’ the Historians used to transport back in. They are pretty much portable offices/homes, which are well stocked with equipment, food, clothes, beds, showers and a kettle; because there is no problem that can’t be figured out over a good cup of tea! If you are a science-fiction buff, I warn you there is no real scientific explanation of how the ‘pods’ worked, however for me that was absolutely fine as scientific detail would go straight over my head – I was perfectly happy to accept they worked and to hop on board for the ride.
Our narrator for all this, Maxwell, is a clever, stubborn, resourceful and strong woman, who is also a chaos magnet! She is joined in her adventures by many other characters – some friends and some enemies – as St Mary’s is like one big eccentric family. Made up of not just Historians but also scientists, engineers, technicians, trainers, medical staff, librarians and kitchen staff (you can get food anytime at St Mary’s). On top of all this, there is also a love interest for Maxwell, while I generally enjoyed this relationship, I could have done with less bedroom gymnastics details.
All in all though, I thought Just One Damned Thing After Another was a fantastical, time-travelling romp and a perfect quick, easy read for my holiday. I would very happily go back to St Mary’s … actually I would like to work there, perhaps I could make the tea?! No? Oh well, maybe I will just have to read the other books instead. Good read.
Have you read this? Or any other time travel adventures?