STARRED REVIEW
January 02, 2018

Memento mori

By Ian Mortimer

The Black Death has draped a cloak of contagion across the landscape of southwest England in 1382. Traveling toward Exeter, where he carves the stone of the cathedral, John and his brother, William, navigate the growing horror of a plague that can touch any person, high or low. Surrounded by the grim proof of mortality, their conversation turns to the merit of good deeds versus faith alone as surety for life everlasting. But when the mounting corpses become too much to bear, John’s desperate attempt to save one life changes the fates of both brothers.

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The Black Death has draped a cloak of contagion across the landscape of southwest England in 1382. Traveling toward Exeter, where he carves the stone of the cathedral, John and his brother, William, navigate the growing horror of a plague that can touch any person, high or low. Surrounded by the grim proof of mortality, their conversation turns to the merit of good deeds versus faith alone as surety for life everlasting. But when the mounting corpses become too much to bear, John’s desperate attempt to save one life changes the fates of both brothers.

As they begin to suffer symptoms of plague, a disembodied voice offers John and William a choice: The brothers can travel home and chance delivering death to their family, or they can live six more days, awakening each morning in their beloved community, 99 years after each previous day. Choosing to spare their loved ones from the risk of plague, the brothers begin their journey forward through six centuries.

With each morning’s awakening, the community’s profound political and physical changes inspire both a sense of marvel and a growing dismay. In each new century, as the brothers’ home recedes further into the past, evidence of their existence becomes harder to find. Even John’s stone carvings erode and crumble, his physical mark on the world diminishing as time passes. The strides forward in time become a living tour of what follows after we are gone, the future that our present lives may—or may not—touch.

Combining his credentials as a bestselling historian with an intimate knowledge of Exeter and the surrounding landscape, author Ian Mortimer plumbs a dynamic sliver of the world through evolving cultural epochs. Casting a line into a historical moment defined by death, Mortimer reels in a narrative of persistence and hope. Addressing universal questions about our personal impact on the world to come, The Outcasts of Time is an erudite and thoughtful exploration of death that brings history to life.

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The Outcasts of Time

The Outcasts of Time

By Ian Mortimer
Pegasus
ISBN 9781681776163

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