*** DEBUG END ***

The Outcasts of Time by Ian Mortimer

24 November 2017

Peggy Woodford on a journey through time


IAN MORTIMER has been described by The Times as “the most remarkable medieval historian of our time”. His ambitious and extraordinary latest novel not only proves the statement, but extends it: he takes the reader almost hypnotically through six centuries, from the 13th to the 20th.

The Outcasts of Time begins in December 1248; the Black Death is raging, and the narrator, John of Wraymont, a stonecarver who already has the plague in his body, goes to pray for help in Exeter Cathedral, his place of work.

A disembodied angelic voice like his own offers healing and possible salvation, but at a price: “I will let you live your last six days in the distance of the future. Ninety-nine years shall pass before you will return to live the first of your remaining days. Another ninety-nine will pass before your second. Five hundred and ninety-five years will pass before your sixth and final day, when I will come for you.”

He and his brother William then start their time travels in their familiar world around Exeter, moving between the rivers Exe and Teign: Honyton, Ashburton, Wraymont, the Scorhill stone circle, and Dartmoor.

Mortimer is brilliant at evoking both environment and period: the shift between centuries is carried with ease by his strong sense of place. The brothers move forward in time seamlessly; it is a device that could have jolted the reader, but it illuminates instead. We see the strangeness of each new era through the brothers’ confused eyes: the dissolution of the monasteries, the arrival of the Reformation, and the destruction of their Old Faith are movingly portrayed. They taste sugar for the first time: “It tastes as if God made it simply to make us smile. . . this wonderful new taste makes me think of my whole life.”

Each era melts invisibly into the next, ending with the horror of a bombing raid on Exeter in 1942. At last, the journey is over, revealing the truth that “home is not a place but a time,” the knowledge that “no loss is absolute,” and that the crucial element holding all together is love.


Peggy Woodford is a novelist.


The Outcasts of Time
Ian Mortimer
Simon & Schuster £12.99
Church Times Bookshop £11.70

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Awards Ceremony: 6 September 2024

Read more details about the awards


Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available



Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website


ViSIt our Events page for upcoming and past events 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)