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Booker International Longlist 2023 – Time Shelter

Time Shelter

Book 9 Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov Translated by Angela Rodel

Reviewed by Tracy & Rachel

Synopsis from Booker Prize website:   A ‘clinic for the past’ offers a promising treatment for Alzheimer’s sufferers: each floor reproduces a decade in minute detail, transporting patients back in time.

An unnamed narrator is tasked with collecting the flotsam and jetsam of the past, from 1960s furniture and 1940s shirt buttons to scents, and even afternoon light. But as the rooms become more convincing, an increasing number of healthy people seek out the clinic as a ‘time shelter’, hoping to escape the horrors of modern life – a development that results in an unexpected conundrum when the past begins to invade the present.

Intricately crafted, and eloquently translated by Angela Rodel, Time Shelter cements Georgi Gospodinov’s reputation as one of the indispensable writers of our times, and a major voice in international literature.

Tracy’s Thoughts:  What a trip- this was Back to the Future, The Time Machine (minus the monsters) and Awakenings all in one.

I work in health care, and my mother in law had dementia, so I enjoyed this idea for Alzheimer treatment. The problem for me was that I was so focused on practical applications, realistic extrapolations, and studies that would have to be done that I think I missed a lot of the rest of the book. Oops.

That’s on me. But really, who wouldn’t like to live in the past once in a while? Reminiscing about how great our childhoods were. No cell phones, internet, conveniences. Hmm. Or not.

Anyway, this was a book full of interesting concepts and commentaries- and I very much enjoyed it.

Writing quality: 5/5
Originality: 4.5/5
Character development: ¾
Plot development: 3.5/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 18/20

Rachel’s Thoughts:  This was always going to be a hard sell for me. It’s a novel jammed full of ideas, and what-if’s, and big questions. I must admit, for over half of the novel I was plain exasperated by its cleverness, and by just how many themes the author was pulling in – by the end I’d reached grudging admiration.

This is less of a time-travel novel, and more of a novel about time. And history, nostalgia, memory, loneliness, nationalism, politics, performance, Europe – where we’re going, and where we’ve been. It has elements that are bitingly funny, and moments that are absolutely heartbreaking – and all of them extend beyond the page into things affecting my/your life.

So yes. I’m slightly mind-blown. Whether or not I liked it, I have a feeling that this one will stay with me. And I may even need to re-visit it at some point. It’s quite something!

Writing quality: 4/5
Originality 5/5
Character development 3/4
Plot development 4/4
Overall enjoyment 1/2
Total 17/20

Have you read this one? Let us know what you thought.

Is Mother Dead 19
Standing Heavy 18
Time Shelter 17.5
Still Born 17.25
Ninth Building 16
Jimi Hendrix Live in Lviv 16
Whale 15.5
Boulder 13.5
The Gospel According to the New World 11.5

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