Simon Gregory lives in a cottage in the small village of Tollesbury. He left his wife when his son with Downs Syndrome was six years old. A regular of the King’s Head pub he’s prone to drinking himself into a stupor and throwing himself in the local salt marshes. After one of his sessions he wakes in the village square to find himself in 1836. Whilst he struggles to make sense of what has happened, the villagers seem overly keen to help the stranger in their midst, competing to draw him into their circle. What’s more, they know the lyrics to Beatles’ songs and they appear to know about aspects of his life. He’s tired, confused and wants his old life back, but perhaps not quite the same life. He wants a life where he gets to see the son he hasn’t seen for twenty years. But first he must find his way back from 1836.
Tollesbury Time Forever is a curious book. It took me quite a bit of time to get into it. The first half, whilst nicely written, is as confusing for the reader as it is for Simon Gregory. As a reader, you just have to go with the flow, enjoy the prose and scenes, and trust that Aylis knows what he’s doing. The second half jolts into something a lot more concrete and the power and cleverness of the book is revealed. I don’t really want to discuss specifics because it’ll spoil the read for others, but needless to say, Aylis performs a lovely sleight of hand. Where the book excels is in the affective response it creates for its readers in response to Simon’s journey. This would not usually be my kind of book. I struggled slightly with the first half, but I’m glad I stuck with it. A book that makes you think and reflect on life.