Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Doomsday Book - Connie Willis

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            

       

24 comments:

Nymeth said...

yay! So glad you loved it too.

Beth F said...

I love Willis!

Julie P. said...

Honestly, I wouldn't have even considered picking up this book without reading your review!

Laurie C said...

I was afraid you were going to say you didn't like it! All her books are just as good as The Doomsday Book! Now you have to read Blackout and All Clear...

bermudaonion said...

I'm wondering what rock I've been living under - I've never heard of this book. Now I feel like I need to read it.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I forgot about the bell ringers! But I love that I forget elements of the book - just another excuse to read it YET AGAIN!!!

raych said...

Right? HILARIOUS and TRAGIC! This book had me temporarily convinced that I love books about the plague, when really I love Connie Willis. My mistake.

And yes, download Blackout/All Clear. They are enormous, glorious mofos.

Alyce said...

This was my first Connie Willis book and I loved it too!

Jen (Devourer of Books) said...

I've been hearing about this for ever and ever too. Actually, I think one of my LibraryThing Secret Santas gave me a copy. I suppose now I'm going to have to read it, huh?

JoAnn said...

You may have just convinced me to give this a try...

farmlanebooks said...

I haven't heard much raving about this one. People seem to rave about To Say Nothing of the Dog more. I tried the Dog book and only found it OK so was in no rush to try this one. Have you read To Say Nothing of the Dog? If so, what did you think of it? Do you think I'd love this as much as you did?

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

How have I never heard about this one? I think I may just need to add it to my kindle for an upcoming trip.

Frances said...

Although the cover is horrible and I like Star Trek geeky stuff :), I do not think I can resist this one much longer. Seems perfect for fall.

Zibilee said...

Heehee, I am one of the rant and ravers on this one. I read it so long ago, and loved it so much. Then I lent it to someone and never saw my copy again. I recently reordered it because it's a book that my collection is not complete without. And I loved the little 5 year old girl. I would play with my puppy!

caite said...

600 pages...hmmmm...5 out of 5...gosh not I have to read it I guess. Well, if I get it om ny Nook it will look smaller.

Carrie K. said...

I told you! She's amazing. Okay, now you have to read To Say Nothing of the Dog - time travel - some of the same characters (Dunworthy, Badri) - but completely different style and sensibility. Just as good. :)

Melody said...

OK, now you've piqued my interest and curiosity! Will check out the book.

Iliana said...

You are so right on about how everyone raves about this book, oh and the cover too - not the prettiest right?

So glad you loved it! I'm saving this for the long plane ride to Germany later this year. I've only read one of her books which I loved so I'm definitely looking forward to this one.

Marg said...

I was supposed to read this with someone over the last couple of months but it hasn't happened yet. Must chase them up!

Melissa said...

I've never heard of this one...the length is a bit scary to me. It could take me 3 months to finish!

Jenners said...

I've been hearing raves about Connie Willis in general but I started with Blackout (and then moved on to All Clear). It sounds like I should have read this one first as the Blackout ones take place in Oxford 2060 ... and London during the Blitz in WWII. I will have to check this one too!

Kathleen said...

I think I just found my next download for my recently acquired Nook!

Care said...

oh good! You LIKED it! :)

Jenny said...

Wow 5 out of 5?!?! You're right, the cover is not enticing LOL. I actually hadn't heard much about this but read a review by a very trusted blogger for Blackout by the same author that made me add if to my list. Will have to keep this in mind!