Time Travelling with a Hamster [read in Italian]


Content: On his 12th birthday, Al receives a letter from his father who had died four years prior, which leaves him excited and also a bit scared. His father has managed to build a time machine and it is up to Al to go back in time to save his father’s life.

What a dragon thinks: My first Italian book that I a) read willingly and b) finished (I finished those I was forced to read at school. Those I started on my own free will I never finished). I am super pumped about that!

Anyway, I had some trouble finding into the story but that is most likely because my Italian is really rusty and I had to get used to the flow of the language again. Once I knew who was doing what and why it got easier. After I finished the book I read a summary to check if I got everything right and apparently I did. I am very proud of myself!

Al, as a main character, I didn’t like so much. I couldn’t even pinpoint the exact reason for that. It must be my ongoing clinch with protagonists. Al is rather unhappy that his mum decided to move in with her new boyfriend Steve and his daughter Carly but he tries to make the best of it. Even when Steve wants to play soccer with him and names Al’s hamster after Alan Shearer. The only time Al is truly happy is when he spends time with his grandfather, Byron. I really liked the close relationship Al and his granddad have and how it was described. They would watch telly together, talk about everything and nothing and drink Indian hot chocolate. Byron was born in India and then moved to England. I was positively surprised and also pleased that the main character is Indian. Throughout the book Byron keeps telling both Al and the reader a lot about his culture and the language. I really enjoyed those bits because it’s not often we get to have an Indian protagonist and learn something about the culture.

My colleague at work said I absolutely had to read this book because it’s really funny. So I was looking forward to a funny, disastrous time travel story where nothing would work out and Al would be faced with hurdles – in a fun way. It was actually very serious?? The topics were not light-hearted at all and it almost ended in a total catastrophe, but not in a fun way.

Forse ti sembra di poter cambiare il tuo mondo, tornando indietro e alternando il corso delle cose, ma stai solo creando un altro mondo e vivendo in quello, invece che nel tuo. Fuggire non significa cambiare.

(Loosely translated: Perhaps you think you can change your world by going back and changing the course of things, but you are just creating another world and live in that instead of your own. Running doesn’t mean changing.)

The poor hamster has to put up with so much shit Al does. I didn’t particularly like how Al treats the hamster even though the latter doesn’t seem to mind as long as there is food and water in the vicinity. Al constantly leaves him places a hamster should not be.

In the past, 12-year old Pi (Al’s father) is ‘friends’ with Macca, a horribly cruel boy who almost made me put the book down for good. He loves to hurt animals and humans so watch out for one or two scenes where he gets very close to actually hurt a cat and the hamster. It was awful to read and I hate that boy.

Time travel is a wonderful thing were it not for the time machine being in a super inaccessible place. Namely the house Al moved out of when his mother started dating Steve. In the garage, in a hidden compartment under the floor his dad used to carry out his experiments the time machine still waits patiently. At first I liked this challenge because Al had to break into the garage but he just left it there. I could have cried because the time machine is not that big. He just had to take it back home with him and put it in his room?? No, he’d rather sneak out at night to break into the garage repeatedly. This was one of the things that made me really angry, especially because when he travels to the past he leaves the time machine in the compartment again even though Byron and Pi didn’t live there at the time, either. You could argue that the time machine can only travel through time but not space but it does! Al can punch in both a time as well as coordinates for a different destination. I admit, the plot wouldn’t work the way it did in the end but it was still a decision I didn’t really like.

Of course Al messed up the first time he went to the past. I didn’t like his first approach to preventing his father’s death. Way too risky, way too messy and not thought through at all. Or rather, planned out as a 12-year old would plan it. He had manoeuvred himself into such a hopeless situation that it was unclear if he would ever succeed in bringing his father back until the last few pages. The consequences of Al’s meddling are so severe that he is propelled into another, much darker dimension where, technically, he couldn’t and therefore shouldn’t exist. But time travel is weird and rules don’t always apply.

People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect but actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey … stuff.

– The Doctor. Doctor Who. Season 3, Episode 10

Favourite characters: Byron

Conclusion: I was expecting a fun adventure into the past where Al would mess up and in the end fix it magically. I really didn’t like the way he always left his time machine in other people’s houses! The story was heavy and very serious, the topics hardly funny. I tried pushing my dislike for both the characters as well as the execution of the story on the fact that I was reading the book in a language I wasn’t as comfortable with but I had to realise that I simply didn’t like the story as much. Just not my taste, I am afraid.

Details about the (Italian edition of the) book:

  • Author: Ross Welford
  • Translator: Giovanni Zucca
  • Age: 12+
  • Publisher: Rizzoli
  • Pages: 443
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Date of publishing: 23.02.2017
  • ISBN: 978-88-17-09240-1

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