Relativity by Antonia Hayes

Relativity by Antonia Hayes

‘Before you hear any words, you can hear the panic.’

Ethan Forsythe is 12 years old and lives with his mother, Claire, who is very protective of him. Ethan is fascinated by physics and astronomy, and is called ‘Stephen Hawking’ by the boys at his school.  It’s easy to imagine Ethan continuing on his gifted way.  But then two things happen: Ethan becomes ill, and his father Mark (whose own father is dying) reappears in his life.

Why has Mark been absent from Ethan’s life, and what is the cause of Ethan’s illness?  As the story unfolds and continues in the present, we obtain differing views of the past.  What really happened?  Is it possible for Mark have a relationship with Ethan? Is it possible to write more about this aspect of the story without spoiling it for a new reader?

‘But secrets were like scars: they faded and softened, but as much as you tried to camouflage them, they didn’t completely disappear.’

In the present, Ethan and his friend Alison are building a time machine.  Ethan searches for a source of quantum foam, and while I am lost in the explanation he gives Alison: ‘Quantum foam is the foundation of the fabric of the universe. It’s subatomic spacetime turbulence. And the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle lets energy briefly decay into particles and antiparticles, and then annihilate without violation physical conservation laws.’, I recognise her demand that he ‘speak English’.

I enjoyed this story.  Ms Hayes has written a complex novel, which includes a number of difficult issues.  I really felt for Ethan trying to make sense of his world, trying to use his knowledge and his own particular logic to improve it.  I closed the novel, mostly satisfied, still thinking about some of the issues raised. This is Ms Haye’s first novel: I’m hoping that there will be more.

‘Theories were disproven all the time.  Ethan thought, sometimes everything we thought we knew turned out to be a colossal mistake.’

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

#AWW2016

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