Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

I have a new author to add to my list of favorites: Connie Willis. And I’m delighted because she’s written and published lots of books, and I’m planning to read all of them (except for the short story collections; I don’t like short stories.) I’ve already read three of her books, and although each of them was very different from the other two, I loved them all.

First I read Doomsday Book. It’s historical fiction and science fiction at the same and entertaining for fans of either or both genres. This book would make a wonderful movie; however Hollywood wouldn’t be able to resist tweaking it to add a bit of romance to a central relationship in the book that is a professor/student, father/daughter relationship and works quite well that way. So no movie. Even though a movie could be a great thing.

Kivrin, a history student at Oxford in 2048, travels through “the net” back in time to the fourteenth century. In the meantime, a virulent influenza virus puts Oxford and its environs under quarantine, and Badre, the tech who set up the program to send Kivrin back in time, is too ill to tell anyone exactly what’s gone wrong with the plan to send Kivrin back to medieval England and retrieve her in two weeks. But something has gone horribly wrong, and Kivrin’s professor, Dr. Dunworthy, is the only one who’s trying to get her back. The others involved in the study are either too sick or too busy trying to deal with the epidemic to help Dunworthy. Kivrin is stranded in an English village in the early 1300’s, and all of her vaccinations and preparations won’t keep her from experiencing the most harrowing and nightmarish time of her young life.

I would assign this book to a class studying the Middle Ages in a heartbeat. However, it’s long, maybe too long for a class assignment. I do think they’d get more information on medieval life and remember more of it by reading this book than by studying a history text. In fact, Doomsday Book made me want to do some research on certain aspects of medieval life. It’s not an exciting adventure novel, and as I said the romance quotient wouldn’t meet Hollywood standards. However, if you love history and good characterization, give it a try.

To Say Nothing of the Dog by the same author uses the same plot device of “the net” to enable the author to tell a much different, more comedic, time-traveling tale. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow. Suffice it to say I liked it even better than I did Doomsday Book.

12 thoughts on “Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

  1. This sounds great! I did a unit on YA time travel books back before my eldest was born, so I still perk up my hears when I hear of one. Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. I love Connie Willis and I can still remember how much this particular book affected me. I probably had more fun with To Say Nothing of the Dog though — wondering for most of the book, “what the heck is the bishop’s bird stump??” (Did I remember that correctly? Bishop’s Bird Stump? It’s been awhile!) I’m not into short stories much myself, but I must say that I was VERY impressed by the stories in her book Miracle and Other Christmas Stories.

  3. Yay for another person discovering Willis’s novels. I love them too, especially these two. I recommend Bellwether and Passage as well. 🙂

  4. I really must read Connie Willis. I own this book, so it would be the most logical place to start…

  5. Oh I loved Doomsday Book! You’ve made me want to reread it. Oh that towering TBR pile!

  6. I loved Dooms Day Book! I had so much fun reading it. I didn’t like Passage as much. Actually, I didn’t actually finish it. I’m interested in To Say Nothing Of The Dog–I just haven’t gotten around to reading it. But Dooms Day Book is one of my all-time favorites.

  7. well, I had to go ahead an buy a used copy of To Say Nothing of the Dog on Amazon..I hope you are happy…lol

  8. Jennifer

    Don’t be so certain about not assigning this to a university class. I had seven days to read it for an English course, and finished it in two and a half. It’s long, to be sure, and I’d probably assign it for longer than I was given *grin*, as not everyone is a fast reader, or has the time, but it is most definitely captivating enough!

    I’ve been meaning to check out some summer reading (and reading for on the plane to France, where I am going, coincidentally, with the teacher who assigned this book) and will definitely check out To Say Nothing of the Dog.

  9. Kate

    I read this book about 2 years ago. It’s amazing. I haven’t read her other books, but I might soon.

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