The Doomsday Book - Connie Willis

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The Doomsday Book - Connie Willis

Fiction - Horror - ISBN: 0553562738

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Review of "The Doomsday Book - Connie Willis"

published 23/05/2003 | xalala
Member since : 23/05/2003
Reviews : 72
Members who trust : 31
About me :
Pro Gripping, exciting, had me in floods of tears
Cons Strangely dissatisfying ending, currently out of print (since Feb 2003)
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"A fantastic read and highly recommended"

I read The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis yesterday. All in one day. That goes some way towards showing how good a read I found it.

I picked the book up from Amazon marketplace, since apparently it went out of print in February 2003 (so there might still be copies in your local bookshop, if you're quick). I chose it on the basis of KarenUK's opinion I read here a few days earlier (thanks, Karen!), and I'd never heard of Connie Willis before.

The book itself is pretty hefty, at nearly 600 pages, so there's plenty to get your teeth into.

The plot is pacy and interesting from the first word. It is set in the near future (2054) and things are certainly different to the present day. There have been significant changes to the NHS, for example. Most spectacularly, time travel is possible. It seems to be limited to historians, or history students, who can travel into the past to study their period in person.

The novel focuses on Kivrin, a history student at Oxford university, who travels back in time to the fourteenth century, the period when the Black Death (or bubonic plague) was introduced to Britain. But Kivrin will be perfectly safe, as she's being sent to 1320, a full 28 years before the first case was recorded.

Only...something goes wrong.

Perhaps predictably, Kivrin ends up in 1348 at Christmas, just as the plague is reaching Oxford. The action is split between her activities and experiences in the past, and the situation in Oxford of the "present" day (well, in 2054). Which, coincidentally, also seems to have been beset by plague of some kind.

I found the juxtaposition between times very interesting, in the way that illness and death was dealt with. We haven't come so far as we might hope in our treatment of the ill and the compassion shown to them.

The subject of pronounciation was interesting to me - it's something that we know very little about during the middle ages. Why did the great vowel shift happen, when did it happen? We don't really know the answers to these questions (although many scholars think that they do). Willis challenges the status quo of academic opinion, having Kivrin be misunderstood when she tries to use her carefully learnt middle english vocabulary directly.

I found the ending of the book strangely dissatisfying. I was left with quite a few questions, such as where was the head of the history department, and why couldn't they trace him? What was the reaction when Kivrin returned? Was Francis planning a sequel? I have to admit I hope so, and it seems as if there's enough loose ends to justify one.

All in all, this is a fantastic page-turner, and I'd definitely recommend it.



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Comments on this review

  • ladyofflame published 05/05/2015
    Good points and questions.
  • thingywhatsit published 25/04/2005
    If that was your second review, it is a darned sight better than mine.
  • magdadh published 10/07/2004
    I approached this about 10 times 'like a dog would approach a hedgehog' to use a Polish expression and never started... this might just about convince me.
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Product Information : The Doomsday Book - Connie Willis

Manufacturer's product description

Fiction - Horror - ISBN: 0553562738

Product Details

Type: Fiction

Genre: Horror

Title: The Doomsday Book

Author: Connie Willis

ISBN: 0553562738

EAN: 9780553562736


Listed on Ciao since: 28/07/2000