What Time Is Love? by Holly Williams review – soulmates after all these years

An invigorating debut places the same couple in different decades, examining how changing social conditions alter their story, to fascinating effect

When Violet and Albert first meet they’re mutually smitten. It’s all stolen glances, burning cheeks and churning desire with one major twist: their initial encounter takes place in 1947, then again in 1967, and once more in 1987. On each occasion they both are just 20 years old.

Despite some tantalising intimations of deja vu, journalist Holly Williams’s highly engaging debut is concerned less with supernatural solutions than with real-world problems, so any reader wondering how these characters manage to be reborn every couple of decades is destined to be frustrated. Instead, the shifting eras of the novel’s backdrop shape three distinct sections that combine the fizz of a romance with an earnest inquiry into the vastly changing (in some respects at least) fortunes of women in the second half of the 20th century, along with questions of class and privilege, and a glimpse into the history of British socialism.

What Time Is Love? by Holly Williams is published by Orion (£14.99). To support the Guardian and Observer order your copy at Delivery charges may apply

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