Wow. Wow. WOW. I was SOME WICKED impressed with this book.
If you go to Amazon to look at the reviews, ignore the one by stupid Publisher's Weekly. If the reviewer had actually READ the book, they wouldn't have got plot points wrong: Timothy Cavendish wasn't "institutionalized by a stroke". He was institutionalized because he was running away from a jailed client's scary brothers and his (T. C.'s) brother played a practical joke on him--he told him to go to Hull and hole up in a specific hotel. The hotel, of course, was an old folks' home (a sketchy old folks' home--imagine a cross between One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and the Golden Girls). When he tries to run away, the horrible nurse teaches him a lesson by deliberately gives him medication to induce the stroke. So, no. That review is, in a word, poop.
But I've gotten ahead of myself. Did I mention that I loved this book?
Okay. It's split up into eleven sections--basically five longish short stories (or novellas, I guess, but I've never been a fan of the word, personally) cut in half with a whole one in the middle. Does that make sense?
The first half-story is set in the late 1800s, the second a few decades later, the third in the 70s, up to and past our time--and then the stories swing back again. Not only does the era change, but the genre changes, too. He ranges from a travelogue to a thriller to farce to sci-fi. And then some. The stories are all interconnected, both in plot and theme. Fan-freaking-tastic.
I'm going to be blabbering to a LOT of people about this book. Wowza.