The Ministry of Time by Kaliane Bradley audaciously entertains

The Ministry of Time is a thought-provoking page-turner and inventive genre mashup from debut author Kaliane Bradley. Read my review.

The Ministry of Time Review - Kaliane Bradley

Publication: Simon and Schuster, May 2024

Genre: Thriller, Science Fiction, Romance, Action-Adventure

The Ministry of Time – Our Synopsis

In a London of the near future, a civil servant applies, no questions asked, to join a mysterious government project, enticed by the promise of her dream salary and the opportunity to make a difference. Successful in her application, she discovers that a new government ministry is assembling individuals from various points in history to explore the possibility of time travel.

Her new role as a “bridge” involves living with and assisting an “expat” from 1847, the previously doomed Arctic explorer Commander Graham Gore, as he works through his bewilderment with modern advancements and societal changes. Despite her determination to play the analytical role expected of her, the bridge finds herself unexpectedly drawn to Commander Gore as they navigate the complexities of their unconventional pairing.

As they grow closer, the true purpose of the Ministry’s project emerges, challenging their beliefs and altering the course of their relationship. With a colourful cast of characters supporting them, the bridge and Commander Gore confront their feelings and the potential consequences of their actions.

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My Review

The Ministry of Time sucked me into its vortex from the word go. Why? Just something about the inner voice of the unnamed narrator instantly piqued my curiosity. For me, both she and the situation she places herself in are competing contrasts. She’s both very structured and certain about particular things while at the same time rootless and diving into the complete unknown.

Arctic explorer Commander Graham Gore is a superb character developed gradually by Bradley with layers and nuance to embody such depth and intellect that he’s both an attractive and enthralling presence. I loved the fact that he, the subject of the scientific experiment, was conducting just as much, if not more, analysis himself.

“If you have any questions,” she tells him, “please feel free to ask. I appreciate that this is a lot to take in.”

“I am delighted to discover,” he says, “that, even in the future, the English have not lost the art of ironic understatement.”

While this is a relatively benign example that stands well on its own, Gore’s and the unnamed narrator’s keen intellects fuel many ongoing banter threads that, over time, build to deliver understated moments of comedic brilliance. If you love smart banter in your romantic suspense, for that alone it’s worth reading The Ministry of Time.

A polarising read

However, I think this will be a polarising read because there are characteristics of this novel that some will love, but they will just not work for others.

In The Ministy of Time Kaliane Bradley explores so many different themes; certainly far too many to list here, plus I do not want to spoil the reading experience. Some will say far too many themes and ideas for a single novel.

It seemed that the job continued. I suppose if you switch on your lights and boil your kettle with energy provided by a nuclear power station, you don’t spend much time reflecting on the fact that the atom had originally been split to kill cities.”

At certain points, which I’ll touch on shortly, greater heed of the ‘less is more’ adage would have enhanced the reading experience for me, but overall I admired Bradley’s wilful ambition in penning The Ministry of Time. Yes, at times the reckless abandon with which thought-provoking ideas and statements are thrown into the plot and narrative almost cause whiplash. In parts, it’s like a literary rollercoaster crashing through a water feature. It feels as though out of control and messy in places, but I enjoyed almost every minute of the ride.

The only aspect that detracted from my unbridled enjoyment was the level of millennial angst and navel-gazing regarding visual identity. While undoubtedly integral to the story and pleasingly self-critiqued within it, I would have just turned the dial down a bit.

I let her leave without saying goodbye and sat in the pool of silence that followed the crash of the front door slamming shut. This was one of my first lessons in how you make the future: moment by moment, you seal the doors of possibility behind you.

Kaliane Bradley’ The Ministry of Time is an audaciously entertaining story and an appealingly unhinged and thought-provoking page-turner.

What other reviewers thought of The Ministry of Time

  • Ron Charles of the Washington Post said, “The folks currently adapting Bradley’s novel for the BBC should be banished to the Middle Ages if they dare to meddle with even a word of this dialogue.”
  • The LA Times noted its contrasts; that it is witty, sexy escapist fiction but also packs a substantial punch.
  • Megha Majumdar (A Burning) also discussed this novel’s wayward elements, describing it as ‘an ecstatic celebration of fiction in all its vehement, ungovernable, mutinous glory’.
  • The Guardian called out the fact that Bradley’s writing can veer towards the glib at times but encouraged readers to give in to the tide of this book and let it pull them along.

About the Author, Kaliane Bradley

  • British-Cambodian writer and editor based in London.
  • Kaliane Bradley won the 2022 Harper’s Bazaar Short Story Prize and the 2022 V.S. Pritchett Short Story Prize.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher for review via NetGalley.