Rotherweird is a strange town. Cut off from the rest of England during the reign of Elizabeth I, the outside world has barely encroached on the town since then. Populated almost entirely by borderline genius eccentrics, outsiders aren’t really encouraged except for in exceptional circumstances – like the disappearance of one of the town’s teachers, prompting them to seek a replacement. On getting the job of history teacher, Jonah Oblong arrives in Rotherweird and, stranger still, is given to understand that actual history is very much off-limits. Only the 1800’s and on can be taught, and even the slightest bit of interest in the town’s past is banned. When another outsider also arrives in town, having bought his way into the Manor, the inhabitants of Rotherweird find themselves ensnared in secrets from the town’s past and, frustratingly for both them and us, each of them only holds a tiny part of the puzzle.
Rotherweird sounded like exactly the sort of book I’d devour and love, dealing as it does with history, mystery and alternate realities, but in practice I actually found this to be a little bit of a slog. I didn’t have a single clue what on earth was going on until more than halfway through the book, when everyone got together and explained to one another what we all needed to know, and while I’d usually find a slow drip of information quite tantalising, here I just found it bewildering. By the end of the book, when everyone had to get together again at the end to explain to us all just what had happened, I found myself annoyed more than anything that this amount of exposition was needed to round things up. The characters, meanwhile, were obviously meant to be charming eccentrics but to me mostly came off as self-consciously weird.
Others may find more to enjoy in Rotherweird than I did, but mostly I was just rather bored.