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The Time Traveller

T.C.A. Madhava Raghavan

By Anu Kumar
Puffin Books, New Delhi, 2008, pp. 139, Rs. 175.00

VOLUME XXXII NUMBER 11 November 2008

The idea of taking historical events and stitching a fictional story around them is not new. But the task of doing it in a manner that will interest a twelve-year-old is a challenging one, and that is what Anu Kumar sets out to do in this book.   The premise is a simple and engaging one. Atisa is a fourteen-year-old boy. His mother returns one day from an expedition to hunt for the remains of the ancient lighthouse of Alexandria. She finds an unexpected link between the lighthouse and the labyrinth of Minos that housed the legendary Minotaur. The link, she believes, is that they were both built by Daedalus, the Greek architect. Readers will immediately realize that this is the same Daedalus from mythology, who lost his son Icarus when they flew too close to the sun. Atisa’s mother, however, believes that Icarus is still alive.   The story hots up when a mysterious visitor crash-lands in their garden, traveling on a strange balloon-like contraption with funny pictorial symbols. Atisa, curious as ever, plays around with the sticks and levers of this machine, and isn’t very surprised when it turns out to be a time machine that takes him into the ancient world and drops him near the pyramids of Egypt. And there begins a tale of the search for Daedalus that takes Atisa on a trip to all the wonders of the age. One of the more popular series when I was growing up was one by Frenchman Christian Jacq on the Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II. Jacq took the little known facts about the pharaoh and stitched them into a five-book story of his life that I found hard to put down. Atisa and the Seven Wonders is a more light-hearted work, and is much shorter of course, but holds its own in the same genre. The Ramses series was my first taste of historical fiction, but even though I was only about fourteen at the time, it was reassuring to know that the author was a scholar of Egyptian history, and that there was therefore an adherence to fact as much as possible. The key events around which the fiction was written did in fact happen. Christian Jacq used fiction as a medium to connect those events, and spent a long time building and shaping his characters.   But while Anu Kumar’s knowledge of history is evident ...

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