Some of us would love to see the future. Others want to know the past. I’m in the latter group, fascinated by how people lived in ancient Rome, medieval Europe, and as they settled the United States.
Through this fascination I stumbled upon what is now my favorite kind of book: the time split or dual timeline. This type of story is in the point of view of a present day protagonist, and alternates with glimpses into the past. Chapters alternate between present day questions and historical clues. Both reader and characters discover how the past shaped the present.
My absolute favorite time split book is The Lost Apothecary, by Sarah Penner. The present day story begins with mudlarking in the Thames where the protagonist discovers a small blue bottle lodged in the muck.
As the story alternates between past and present, the protagonist researches in the Bodleian and learns the history behind the blue bottle. It’s a wonderful blend of how finding the lost apothecary leads the protagonist to find her own truth. Pouring through archives, old diaries, and city records sounds romantic to me. 💓
I grew up in the country and one of my fondest memories
is coming across an old cabin in the woods. Digging through the
remains, I found silverware, broken jars, and a child’s tiny tea set. I
wanted to know who lived here, what were their lives like, where did
they go? It was only as an adult that I would learn how to research
county records, genealogy, and newspapers as far back as a town had
This memory led to a story I wrote last year, but only in the present time. As I learn more about writing the time split genre, the story will be revised to include chapters set the past. I'm excited to create a history for my old cabin and weave its story into my protagonist's present life. Who knows what she and I will dig up?