Simon Morley, or Si, leads a boring life as an illustrator in the 70s. He feels like there's something more out there for him and knows that to be the case when he is contacted by an unknown man to be part of a "project". Without fully knowing what it is, Si agrees and finds himself in the middle of a time travelling experiment. The board of directors of this experiment wants Si to go to San Francisco before the big earthquake, but Si has a selfish time chosen out for himself. New York of 1882 to see a letter delivered that his girlfriend has kept for a very long time.
Si has to learn all of the tricks of time travel and eventually makes it back. He's asked to go back a few more times to see if events in the present are different when he comes back and to learn the history about some of the men he meets in the past.
The premise of this book is quite interesting but the real charm of the book lies in the story telling of 1882. Si meets the people of the time and grows close to some of them, experiencing life as he would back in that time. However at the start of the book, it took me a while to figure out what was going on and why. I'm sure the time travel part of the book could have been a bit better thought through.
First Line: "In shirt-sleeves, the way I generally worked, I sat sketching a bar of soap taped to an upper corner of my drawing board."