Author: Charlie Laidlaw
Due to be published on 20th June 2019 by Accent Press
Category: Contemporary, Fiction, Family Drama, Book Review
There are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on Earth…
Emma Maria Rossini appears to be the luckiest girl in the world. She’s the daughter of a beautiful and loving mother, and her father is one of the most famous film actors of his generation. She’s also the granddaughter of a rather eccentric and obscure Italian astrophysicist.
Emma Rossini lives what most people would consider a charmed life. However, appearances can be deceptive. When Emma’s actor father Paul Ross, becomes, as Emma herself puts it, ‘properly famous’ he moves the family out of their familiar, large flat in Edinburgh to a run down mansion in North Berwick, a seaside town just outside Edinburgh.
Cat, Emma’s mother, likes to keep a low profile which is easier said than done considering who her husband is. Paul is away much of the time and Cat suffers from depression and anxiety knowing he comes into contact and works with many beautiful women. She resorts to drink and pills to cope, not hiding her feelings of agitation. Emma is exposed to everything that goes on but likes having her mother to herself, despite her highly strung and over anxious personality, because she adores her and knows her mother returns that love. She’s less sure about her father’s feelings. He’s hardly ever home, never wants his family to travel with him and is quite inconsiderate of their feelings. It’s quite an insight into the pitfalls of living with someone famous who relishes the adoration—how, as Emma realises, even when he’s not present he still seems to be the centre of attention.
I stopped believing in him one Christmas Day, a long time ago, when he simply didn’t turn up. It wasn’t his presents that I missed, or even his presence, but the warm, fuzzy feeling of being important to him.
The story pulled me in the more I read, with lighthearted humour to offset the pathos of the darker elements. Told in the first person from Emma’s perspective as she grows from child to adult. Her recounting of events follows her thoughts as they arise (which could have made the narrative less smooth, but doesn’t) and reflects how events have shaped her, how she perceives her life and the people around her at different stages. She is not averse to editing here and there and describes herself as an unreliable narrator as we learn later. A devastating event does have far reaching consequences however, giving rise to a name change and reinvention of herself. She is a well fleshed out, realistic character and very easy to empathise with, even if sometimes I wanted to give her a good talking to. Lots of issues are sensitively explored including depression, suicide and isolation.
The Space Between Time is another intriguing, perceptive and character driven read from Charlie Laidlaw. A well written, moderately paced book ostensibly about the intricacies of an unconventional family’s life but in reality, so much more than that. A story of love, a great loss and working through issues to find a way back to oneself. Clearly defined, complex and easily imagined characters jump off the pages in situations that are all to easy to imagine.
I must mention the mathematical expressions in the unique chapter headings, which are in keeping with the astrophysics thread, and confess to a soft spot for Emma’s grandfather, Alberto, and his very expressive moustache. Alberto is one of the key figures in Emma’s life, and his theories about space and mathematics run through the background of the story.
‘Our existences were defined, not by who we were, but by our relationship to him. He was our star, we circled in uneasy orbit. Mum was a moon; I sometimes felt like a small piece of space junk.’ [Emma talking about her father]
I chose to read and review The Space Between Time based on a copy of the book kindly supplied by the author and Accent Press.
About the Author
I was born in Paisley, central Scotland, which wasn’t my fault. That week, Eddie Calvert with Norrie Paramor and his Orchestra were Top of the Pops, with Oh, Mein Papa, as sung by a young German woman remembering her once-famous clown father. That gives a clue to my age, not my musical taste.
I was brought up in the west of Scotland (quite near Paisley, but thankfully not too close) and graduated from the University of Edinburgh. I still have the scroll, but it’s in Latin, so it could say anything. I then worked briefly as a street actor, baby photographer, puppeteer and restaurant dogsbody before becoming a journalist. I started in Glasgow and ended up in London, covering news, features and politics. I interviewed motorbike ace Barry Sheene, Noel Edmonds threatened me with legal action and, because of a bureaucratic muddle, I was ordered out of Greece.
I then took a year to travel round the world, visiting 19 countries. Highlights included being threatened by a man with a gun in Dubai, being given an armed bodyguard by the PLO in Beirut (not the same person with a gun), and visiting Robert Louis Stevenson’s grave in Samoa. What I did for the rest of the year I can’t quite remember.
Surprisingly, I was approached by a government agency to work in intelligence, which just shows how shoddy government recruitment was back then. However, it turned out to be very boring and I don’t like vodka martini.
Craving excitement and adventure, I ended up as a PR consultant, which is the fate of all journalists who haven’t won a Pulitzer Prize, and I’ve still to listen to Oh, Mein Papa.
I am married with two grown-up children and live in East Lothian.