A debut that is affecting and perplexing in equal measure. Give Wilkins points for audacity: his first novel features two distinct parallel narrative strands, offered in alternate chapters. In one, the narrator (a mathematical prodigy doing postgraduate work at Cambridge University) energetically traces the history of humankind's attempts to measure time. The other, more conventional, narrative strand follows his love for an older woman, their gentle courtship, and the collapse of their hopes as she sinks into a fatal neurological illness. There's much that's moving here: the rather idiosyncratic romance is depicted with restraint and a precise attention to detail. And the narrative on the evolution of the human fascination with time, and of the efforts to adequately measure it, is vigorous and detailed. But the attempt to mesh the tragedy of romantic loss and the history of time and human mortality seems more awkward than persuasive, and the symbolism more heavy-handed than compelling.
Overall, a work more impressive in its parts than as a whole.