Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index




to e-mail us:

support the site

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

In association with Amazon.ca - Canada

the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Daughter of Time

Josephine Tey

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Daughter of Time

Title: The Daughter of Time
Author: Josephine Tey
Genre: Novel
Written: 1951
Length: 206 pages
Availability: The Daughter of Time - US
The Daughter of Time - UK
The Daughter of Time - Canada
La fille du temps - France
Alibi für einen König - Deutschland
La figlia del tempo - Italia
La hija del tiempo - España
  • The fifth in the Inspector Alan Grant series

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

B+ : a fun idea, quite well realized

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Le Monde . 24/1/2003 Gérard Meudal
The NY Times . 22/2/1952 Orville Prescott
The NY Times Book Rev. A 24/2/1952 Anthony Boucher
Sunday Times A 24/6/1951 J.W.Lambert
The Washington Post A- 12/3/2003 Jonathan Yardley

  From the Reviews:
  • "C'est un roman policier atypique. L'action y est pratiquement inexistante puisque l'inspecteur de Scotland Yard est cloué au lit par une fracture." - Gérard Meudal, Le Monde

  • "(J)ust about the oddest detective story I ever came across. (...) As a detective story this isn't much. (...) But as an investigation of modern documents it is fascinating. Anyone who likes history and its more celebrated villains should be fascinated by Miss Tey's proof" - Orville Prescott, The New York Times

  • "The result is a real bouleversement of schoolbook and encyclopedia "history", treated with compelling logic, precise scholarship and a cumulative intensity which makes the fictional, and even the factual crimes of 1952 seem drab affairs indeed. (...) The relative lack of contemporary action may put a few readers off this book; but most will, I trust, like this reviewer, clasp it to their hearts as one of the permanent classics in the mystery field." - Anthony Boucher, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Miss Tey (...) makes hay of several more legends masquerading as history; seldom can information have been so painlessly communicated as this ingenious, stimulating and very enjoyable combination of whodunit and history." - J.W.Lambert, Sunday Times

  • "On and on the argument will go, as it had for centuries before this novel appeared, but when considering The Daughter of Time one does best to relegate historical nitpicking and even amateur sleuthing to the background. Concentrate on the book's virtues as fiction and its exploration of the mystery and uncertainty and downright falsehood that too often are at the heart of our inquiries into the past. Alan Grant has a word for that: "Tonypandy." To find out what it means, read The Daughter of Time, which repays the reading many times over." - Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

       The Daughter of Time features Alan Grant, a Scotland Yard inspector who is also the central figure in several earlier novels by Tey. Unlike those, however, The Daughter of Time does not involve a present-day crime. Instead, it finds Grant "bed-borne", in hospital. He managed to fall through, of all things, a trap door while chasing a criminal and is now laid up with: "a game leg and concussed spine"; he's only beginning to walk on his own two feet at the conclusion of the novel. But for this particular case there's no need for him to go sleuthing on the streets.
       When the novel opens, Grant is bored. The pile of books by his bedside doesn't offer the kind of relief he is seeking; everything is too familiar and predictable, Grant wondering:

Did no one, any more, no one in all this wide world, change their record now and then ? Was everyone nowadays thirled to a formula ? Authors today wrote so much to a pattern that their public expected it.
       Tey does her best to upend things, as the crime that Grant then sets his sights on from his hospital bed is many centuries old: the Princes in the Tower case of the late fifteenth century, the (alleged) murder, by Richard III, of his two nephews.
       Grant is -- likely much like the reader -- familiar with English history only on a fairly basic level. Richard III is familiar from the Shakespeare play and not much else; Grant has just a very basic idea of the man
Richard the Third. Crouchback. The monster of nursery stories. The destroyer of innocence. A synonym for villainy.
       Grant tries to learn more about the facts of the case and those times, beginning with the most basic of history books and then delving ever deeper -- eventually with the help of an (American) research assistant, who gets quite caught up in the case as well. Among the obvious books Grant looks to when he starts his investigation is Thomas More's History of Richard III, as:
That book was the Bible of the whole historical world on the subject of Richard III -- it was from that account that Holinshed had taken his material, and from that that Shakespeare had written his
       Grant soon realizes, however, that there are good reasons to doubt its accuracy -- most obviously, because More didn't have first-hand knowledge of the times, much less the events. Policeman Grant doesn't want to rely on hearsay:
(A)ll I pine for is a contemporary account of events. They must have been country-rocking events. I want to read a contemporary's account of them. Not what someone heard-tell about events that happened when he was five, and under another regime altogether.
       The case energizes Grant; finally, even if he can't move around at all: "I'm feeling like a policeman. I'm thinking like a policeman". He wants to dig much deeper -- not in the after-the-fact historical accounts of the victors but actual contemporary records:
     Give me research. After all, the truth of anything at all doesn't lie in someone's account of it. It lies in all the small facts of the time. An advertisement in a paper. The sale of a house. The price of a ring.
       The more he looks into the claim that Richard III was responsible for such a heinous crime, the more he finds: "It was a highly unlikely story".
       Facts aren't that easy to uncover -- but with a bit of research-work a clearer (and more convincing) picture comes together, casting doubt on the one that has captured popular imagination. A very different portrait of Richard III from the one we know so well emerges.
       Tey has Grant methodically examine much of the evidence and makes a good case for why one should have doubts about the standard version of events -- making also a larger case for how, and by whom, history is written and the possible consequences thereof. Her point is also how 'alternative facts' can come to be commonly accepted -- a useful lesson in our own times, too. And she notes also, as she has an acquaintance remind Grant:
     It's an odd thing but when you tell someone the true facts of a mythical tale they are indignant not with the teller but with you. They don't want to have their ideas upset. It rouses some vague uneasiness in them, I think, and they resent it. So they reject it and refuse to think about it. If they were merely indifferent it would be natural and understandable. But it is much stronger than that, much more positive. They are annoyed.
     Very odd, isn't it ?
       It's a clever idea for a crime novel, and doesn't bog down too much in dusty history; the mix of the schoolbook-familiar and the perhaps slightly less so is well-handled. The action is, in a sense, very limited -- Grant is stuck in hospital the entire time, and the story remains very much focused on him (i.e. we don't follow the other characters as they go about their business elsewhere) -- but that's also part of the appeal of the novel, as Tey captures Grant's own mood and feelings, shifting between boredom and excitement, along with the frustration of not being able to move about even as everyone else can, very well. The investigation is, necessarily, one that proceeds primarily by going through written records, but Tey manages this quite well, allowing for enough human activity around Grant to balance things out.
       Regarding Grant:
Neither by nature nor by profession was he interested in mankind in the large. His bias, native and acquired, was towards the personal.
       This is also reflected in the story, in which the present-day figures around Grant are very much alive, even as the historical ones remain more distant and abstract. It's also an approach that helps Grant with the case, as he takes a more personal look at Richard III (and gives him the benefit of some doubts).
       The Daughter of Time is widely considered a classic English mystery, and it is certainly a solid novel-- and a clever variation on the traditional mystery novel. Tey's investigator is forced into a role that is much more passive than usual for a detective; in many ways he becomes like the reader (as, indeed, much of the time he simply is a reader, piecing together information he (or then also others) cull from various written sources). The novel is, on the one hand a forensic examination of quite old history, but also describes the daily life and routines of a (not very seriously ill, but still wholly dependent on others) hospital patient, and Tey balances the two quite well.
       In also showing that there's more to history than just the received stories -- often very much stories, formulated to specific ends and then successfully passed down -- and that truth (the 'daughter of time' of the title) is often and easily obscured (but also often recoverable, with a little bit of effort), Tey's novel also offers more than the usual mystery-novel lesson. Certainly also in this regard it feels very timely.

- M.A.Orthofer, 15 October 2021

- Return to top of the page -


The Daughter of Time: Reviews: Josephine Tey: Other books of interest under review:

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       British author Josephine Tey (actually: Elizabeth MacKintosh) lived 1897 to 1952.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2021 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links