Book Blog--THE DOOMSDAY BOOK by Connie Willis

Katherine Longshore 2 Tuesday, April 16, 2013
I never thought I would say this, but I haven't been reading much lately.  I've always been the person who goes through two--sometimes three--novels a week.  They're how I relax.  I read during my lunch and often instead of watching TV.  But things have been a little hectic lately.  Relaxing moments have been few and far between.

Plus, I feel I need to add a caveat--I haven't been reading many published novels lately.  I've been reading for research--and because the idea is so new and so unformed, I don't even want to talk about what I'm reading.  And I've been beta reading other people's projects.  And I can assure you, I will be talking all of these up when they start to come out (though we all know publishing timelines, so I'm afraid you'll have to wait a year or more.)  There is some good stuff in the works here, people.  Be prepared.

I also decided to pick up a novel for adults.  I haven't read much fiction outside of YA for a while, so I figured it was a good time to start.  And I absolutely adore Connie Willis (To Say Nothing of the Dog, Blackout, All Clear).  She's won eleven Hugo Awards and eight Nebula Awards and been nominated for many more.  She is (in two words) freaking brilliant.

But wait (you say).  You read historical novels, Katy.  What are you doing reading science fiction?

That's the beauty of some of Connie Willis's novels.  To me, they don't read like science fiction.  They are theoretically set in the near future, where time travel is possible and historians at Oxford University use it to study the past.

Imagine that.  Actually being able to go back in time and experience life we've been reading about.

I'll give you a minute.

I read To Say Nothing of the Dog several years ago and it totally hooked me on Connie Willis's ability not only to make a believable world in the future, but to get all of her facts straight in the past.  Blackout and All Clear brought clarity and immediacy to World War II.  But I had never picked up The Doomsday Book and I didn't realize why until I told my sister I was reading it and she said (spoiler alert!), "That book almost made me never read another Connie Willis because everyone dies."

I knew this already.  Doomsday is about the early efforts of the historians to understand and use the time travel "Net".  It's about a future virus that affects Oxford over Christmas.  And it's about a young historian who goes back to the Middle Ages.  During the year the bubonic plague arrives in England.  Plus it has the word doomsday in the title.  Of course everyone's going to die.  (spoiler alert--everyone doesn't die.  But some people die.)

What I like best about this book?  The authenticity.  I love how surprised the historian is when she goes back to (what she thinks is) 1320 and is surprised by the "lean-tos" that provide the village housing.  How she knows more Latin than the village priest.  How she can't understand a word anyone is saying despite having studied Chaucerian English.  How relatable the characters in the past are--just like people today with desires and hopes and fears and children who love puppies.  Like I said before--it's brilliant.

If you haven't tried Connie Willis and are in any way shape or form interested in history or science fiction, give her a try.  I suggest starting with To Say Nothing of the Dog because as well as being fascinating and including a great romance, it's also hilarious.


Well, you just made me want to read her, even if everyone does die (plus I love anything Oxford). Thanks for the review!

Well, you just made me want to read her, even if everyone does die (plus I love anything Oxford). Thanks for the review!

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