"The Space Between Time" by Charlie Laidlaw is an intense piece of writing that draws the reader in and keeps them enthralled until the end. It's a bit like watching a road crash: you don't want to see the horror, but are inextricably drawn to it. This is not a book for the faint hearted, despite its rather innocent beginning. It tell the story of a little girl, Emma, who appears to be a happy go lucky child with all the advantages a life of privilege can bring. She has a beautiful mother who loves her, rather eccentric grandparents and a famous film actor father. She lives her early life in Edinburgh and, for those who know the city, the pen picture Charlie Laidlaw paints is extremely accurate. Similarly when the family moves to a grand house in North Berwick, the backdrop feels familiar and right.
Emma loves her grandfather. He is an astrophysicist, whose Theorem on the Universe has brought him mixed reviews and overwhelming criticism. But to Emma he is fascinating and she is keen to learn more about his Italian roots. She wants to share in his love for his homeland, despite him having spent much of his adult life away from it. To Emma this other side to him gives him an air of mystery and draws her to him. Counter to the relationship Emma has with her grandfather is the one she has with her parents. Beautiful though she is, Emma's mother is highly strung and nervous and this impacts on their relationship. Her father is totally absorbed in his 'film star' life and becomes increasingly estranged from his family as he pursues his acting career and places it above all else. Whilst Emma tries to build a life for herself, the friendships she tries to form seem always to be tainted by the motives behind them. Do people want to know her for herself, or only as a means of getting closer to her father?
"The Space Between Time" moves on to explore Emma's life as it slowly begins to unravel, She experiences love and tragedy, often seeming rudderless and at sea in the fierce storms that blight her life. She is inevitably drawn back to the one port in the storm which offers her solace - her oft derided grandfather's Theorem on the Universe. Maybe is she can learn to make sense of it, she can also learn to make sense of her own life.
As I said at the beginning, this is not a book for the faint hearted. Charlie Laidlaw is a visual writer and one who gets inside the heads of his characters and shares their experiences, good and bad, in the rawest of detail. Setting "The Space Between Time" in the modern era allows the reader to relate to the environment Emma exists in and get an insight into the real life problems she faces, as we would if her circumstances were our own. There will be few who won't empathise with at least some of the things she encounters and her story is definitely the richer for that. Would we, in Emma's shoes, have lived her life any differently? This reader knows what she thinks, but if you too read Emma's story, you will be able to form your own view.