Time Wants a Different Image is a portrait of four young people who meet at a holiday home in 2016. Brexit, the Paris Agreement and the US presidential election serve as the framework for the conversations among the four friends. But there’s a smouldering beneath the surface; things are kept hidden and the four of them hide from one another. We go back in time with Claudia, Michael, Casper and Susanne, who also have intersecting romantic relationships. The story extends over ten years and each chapter deals with a single event in the characters’ lives.
2016: Claudia has lost her boyfriend Edward in a tragic car accident outside Paris. She has barely spoken to anyone since the accident but now she plucks up the courage to ring on the doorbell of the woman in the flat next door. The woman asks Claudia disturbing questions about her grieving process and where she is in life. ‘Didn’t you get what you were promised?’ asks the woman. ‘I wasn’t promised anything,’ Claudia replies.
2014: Susanne is a guest at a wedding but feels like a misfit. Bourgeois conventions aren’t her thing. Too much happiness, tears, speeches. She has enough to deal with in her own life already. Like the abortion she has just had and Michael, who didn’t find out about it until it was already done. ‘What’s the point?’ she thinks, before hurling herself into the dark water for a night-time dip with the other wedding guests.
2012: Michael is working as a model for an older female photographer in London and discovers what it’s like to be captured by another person’s gaze. The photographer thinks he is a perfect representative of his own generation, well-adjusted and with every opportunity ahead of him. But Michael is indifferent to all that. Being in your twenties isn’t as brilliant as the photographer makes out. He is impatient and in love with Susanne – he always has been. So why does Casper constantly intrude on his thoughts?
2006: Casper is at his parents’ holiday home, a summer week with only himself for company. ‘Who are we when we are alone?’ he wonders, and catches himself thinking that the absence of other people is good for him. Suddenly Oline, the daughter of the people in the neigbouring cabin, appears on the doorstep. She is writing a book about why gulls are vanishing from the ocean regions where they usually live. All Casper knows is that she will play an important role in his future life – just not what that role will be.
Who are these young people – in relation to themselves and one another? What do they reveal, what do they keep to themselves, who are they and what do they want? How are our lives shaped by underlying structures? Who are we supposed be in a world that has become fragmented? Time Wants a Different Image is a mature, stylistically assured debut that also draws a rich portrait of a generation.
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