Book Review: An Ocean of Minutes – Thea Lim

An Ocean of Minutes - Thea Lim


About The Book


Polly and Frank are young and in love, a lifetime together before them. But one evening in 1980, as the Texas sun sets over their shoulders, the world is suddenly pulled apart by a deadly virus. Within months, Frank is dying. Polly can save him, but only if she agrees to a radical plan: to time travel to 1993 for a corporation who can fund his life-saving treatment. She can only go forward, she cannot go back. And she must leave everything she loves behind, including Frank.

All they have is the promise of a future together: they will find each other again in twelve years’ time, in Galveston, Texas, where the sea begins.

But when something goes wrong and Polly arrives late, Frank is nowhere to be found. Completely alone, Polly must navigate a terrifying new world to find him, and to discover if their love has endured.

An Ocean of Minutes is a devastating and timely novel about courage, yearning, the cost of holding onto the past – and the price of letting it go.

My Review

After not reading much dystopian fiction for ages I seem to have read a fair bit recently and An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim was my latest foray into the genre. Set towards the end of the last century it tells the story of Frank and Polly, two young people deeply in love in 1981 who are planning their future together. That is until Frank becomes ill with a deadly and highly contagious strain of the flu. The treatment needed to save him is expensive but can be ‘paid’ for by Polly travelling through time to 1993. Faced with the love of her life dying she chooses to go and she and Frank arrange to meet at a hotel on the beach in Texas in September 1993. Except something goes wrong and she arrives in 1998, the flu has wiped out most of the population and she is in a land which is wholly unlike anything she knows or has seen before.

1998 is a terrifying and disorientating place; sheds are filled with people on exercise bikes powering air conditioning for tourists and the noise of children laughing is fed through speakers into the desolate landscape. I was incredibly uneasy reading these passages and found some sections quite upsetting. It felt quite psychologically brutal and reminded me a little of the Handmaid’s Tale in the way it used extreme power to control and cause fear.

Interspersed with the horrors of Polly’s new life are chapters which tell us the story of Frank and Polly; how they met, their love for one another and their relationship. It is a heartbreaking read in places and one part of me was willing them to find one another whilst the other was wondering if Frank was still alive and if he was would the changes in the world make a relationship insurmountable?  She is bonded to the time travel company and is unable to leave Texas (now America, it has been quarantined from the United States to isolate the pandemic) until her debt is paid off. Thea Lim does a wonderful job of writing about a couple deeply in love and contrasting it with the predicament Polly finds herself in. The time she is bonded to the company is a frustration that comes through loud and clear and is a huge obstacle in her quest to find her soul mate.

This is a book which deals with love, loss, heartbreak, fear and terror in a beautiful and eloquent way.  It is cleverly written, expertly plotted and creates a world that is at once recognisable and also absolutely terrifying. I spent most of this book wondering how it would end and whether Polly and Frank would be reunited. I won’t spoil it but it is a perfect ending to their tale.

My thanks to Quercus Books and Netgalley for an advanced copy of An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim in return for an honest review. An Ocean of Minutes is published today and can be bought here.


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