Charlotte Makepeace, the central character in this 1969 novel by Penelope Farmer, is all on her own at a new boarding school. But she was lucky enough to get first choice of beds in her dormitory room, at the encouragement of the prefect who was showing her around, so she selected the bed on wheels by the window. She had no idea how significant that choice would be.
As she awoke after the first night in her new bed, Charlotte found that everything had changed. England is still at war, and a younger girl named Emily treats Charlotte as her sister. If that weren’t strange enough, everyone seems to think that Charlotte is named Clare. Another day and night passes, and Charlotte is back to herself. And so it goes on, Charlotte zips back in time and becomes Clare for a day and then returns to be Charlotte. When Charlotte is gone from herself, Clare takes her place.
As you can imagine, living this way makes Charlotte seem more than a little bit odd. One day she can play the piano well, and the next day she can’t. She agrees to be a classmate’s best friend one day and ignores her the next. And then Emily starts asking questions.
Early on, Charlotte writes her name on her notebook, and she’s pleased to lay claim to her own identity. But being addressed as Clare, and treated like Clare, throws her, as it would anybody. She wonders again and again how much she is like Clare when she is in Clare’s body. She doesn’t have Clare’s memories, and she doesn’t have her talents, but if everyone assumes that’s who she is, will she become the person they expect?
This book is apparently the third in a trilogy, but it works fine as a standalone novel. I found the approach to time travel to be clever, particularly in that the time travel is not really the point. This is a book about a girl discovering who she is. However, I did wonder if reading the earlier books might have made me more attached to Charlotte as a character. Charlotte herself doesn’t really come to life. I think that’s partly due to the central question of the plot and Charlotte’s in between state, but my lack of attachment to Charlotte kept me from being as caught up in this book as I would have liked. It is a good book, though, I enjoyed it enough for the time I spent in it.
I received an e-galley of this book for review consideration via Edelweiss.