Oh, the ranting and raving about this book! I've heard it almost since I started blogging. Many said it was on their top ten list EVER. Many said they cried. Many said they keep reading it over and over. I mean, this was like mass hysteria! A couple things held me back, if I were going to be honest. First, the cover looks like it is circa 1975 (sorry it does!). Second, it is like a million pages long. Alright, maybe only 600 pages. But I was assured that I just needed to trust and read. I downloaded it on the Kindle, and decided that I might actually have the time while in Poland.
I read it in three and a half days. It was that good. So what can I say here that won't spoil it for the uninitiated but still communicate its brilliance?
Synopsis: The year is 2048, and at Oxford University, it is commonplace that historians time travel back to years of their expertise to get first-hand knowledge. Decades are graded by level of danger, and obviously only the highly experienced are allowed to journey to times of war and plague. It is a fascinating world, not so different from our own, where an entire field of study provides for students to learn about ancient languages, behaviors and style of dress, complemented with the supporting technology to make travel to the fifteenth century akin to a trip to another country.
When professor Dunworthy discovers that his prized pupil, Kivrin, was allowed to travel back to the middle ages unescorted, without the usual tests and precautions, he becomes concerned for her welfare. Then a deadly epidemic is unleashed in the modern world, and Dunworthy not only worries if this will prevent Kivrin's return, but fears something went very wrong with her trip in general.
The story is told by both Dunworthy, in the modern world, where all hell is breaking loose, and by Kivrin, who has found herself in a small village, surrounded by poor townsfolk, disease and humanity. Separated by 700 years, teacher and student both experience the same greed, cowardice, acts of kindness, and the resilience of the human spirit.
My thoughts: Well, everything they said was true. This is a one-of-a-kind read that will never lose its appeal (even after 2048!). The plot was gripping and tight, to the point where I never wanted to put the Kindle down. My heart was racing, I cried, I smiled.
Speaking of smiling, that was one thing that really surprised me about this book. Amidst death and destruction, this book was FUNNY! Yes there was an epidemic going on in the current day, but there was also a stranded band of American bell ringers, an obnoxious over-protective mother of a womanizing student, and a precocious nephew of a professor that was into everything (reminded me alot of my son). They were an absolute delight. Even the characters in the 1300' s were precious...a boisterous five year-old girl, a devoted priest, a plucky teenaged girl betrothed to a middle-aged sloth. I'm not sure if I have ever loved a set of characters this much.
For those that may be turned off by the sci-fi edge to this novel, I would encourage you to abandon your pre-conceptions in this instance. This is not a geeky, techy Star Trek thing (not that there is anything wrong with that, lest I offend you!). This story has universal appeal, with something for everyone.
This is one of those cases where I am glad I have the book on my Kindle. I shall be reading it again!
5 out of 5 stars