A Love Letter to The Daughter of Time

Countdown: 5 days to go to King Richard III’s reinterment. 

Sometimes called the book that launched a thousand Ricardians, Josephine Tey’s classic, The Daughter of Time, is still one of my favourites after rereading it at least half a dozen, maybe as many as 10 times, over the last three decades.

A long-winded essay on my relationship with The Daughter of Time:

I first picked The Daughter of Time up in grade 10 — I think — after spending a lonely few minutes in the library. I’d read a book called The Pigman by Paul Zindel for English class and was looking for something else with an interesting title, so I started from the bottom of the alphabet in terms of author surnames and read a couple of John Wyndhams along the way. Then, browsing the Ts, I saw the title, The Daughter of Time. I took down the book and recognised that it had a British monarch on the cover, but I didn’t know which one. I turned it over and saw the book was about Richard III and the mystery of the Princes in Tower. I knew the story, although not well as my English history education was a touch spotty after moving to Canada at the age of nine and a half.

Knowing me, I likely devoured The Daughter of Time (I think I once read it in one day) in a few short days and I was hooked. It was as though everything I had been taught in school was open to debate or reinterpretation. The following year, I went full-tilt into teenage rebellion. (Perhaps Ms. Tey is more to blame than sex — I never did drugs — and rock and rock.) I remember discussing King Richard III with a friend in high school and in my last year, I wrote a paper on why William Shakespeare was a terrible playwright based mainly on his awful research on King Richard III. I was saddened to learn that my English teacher did not share my sentiments and that she was also rather parsimonious with marks. Perhaps if I had written the same paper for one of my history teachers (I took as much history in high school as I could), I might have got a better mark? Anyway, I took history at university because I didn’t really know what else to take. I don’t recall having to defend King Richard III’s character in any class, but I was surprised later to find that I had crossed out a paragraph in one of my texts that blamed King Richard III for the death of the Princes, defacing a book is most unlike me so I must have been rather passionate that day.

I am currently on my third copy of The Daughter of Time. I know I once gave someone my copy in the hopes that they would come over to the right side and I might have done the same with the other copy.

Rereading The Daughter of Time reminds me of how much it influenced me in subtle ways. Inspector Grant’s belief that there should be a literary moratorium for a generation as there is too much drivel printed (as an editor and as an innocent reader I must reluctantly agree as I have read some twaddle in my time, in fact, you, dear reader, might be thinking that you are suffering through it right now).

The Daughter of Time does have its faults. As someone who has done historical research, the locating of needed facts are rather too easy, but then again, I have never done research at the British Library.

I am re-reading The Daughter of Time now as I am preparing to go to Leicester for King Richard III’s reinterment and once again savouring each plot turn. Of course I will be sad to finish the book, but I know that I will re-read it again soon.

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2 Responses to A Love Letter to The Daughter of Time

  1. I am always glad to hear of others who re-read books, the same as I. You have piqued my interest in this particular story, and I am finding that I will be adding that title to my “must read” list. Thanks.


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