March 4, 2017

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Title:  Doomsday Book
Author:  Connie Willis
Pages:  445
Genre:  Science Fiction
Publisher:  Bantam, 1992
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis:  For Kivrin, preparing for on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity's history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the fourteenth century and inventing an alibi for a woman traveling alone.  For Dunworthy and her instructors in the twenty-first century, it meant painstaking calculations and careful monitoring of the rendezvous location where Kivrin would be retrieved.

But a crisis strangely linking past and future strands Kivrin in the most dangerous year of the Middle Ages as her fellows try desperately to rescue her.  In a time of superstition and fear, Kivrin -- barely of age herself -- finds she has become an unlikely angel of hope during one of history's darkest hours.

"Anno Domine," the clerk said from the bed.  He tried to lick his lips with his swollen tongue.  "One thousand three hundred and forty-eight."

Review:  I originally read this book some time in middle school.  I remember checking it out of the library and sitting up late, reading it.  I was lucky to have parents that allowed me free range of the library, even the adult section.  I read many wonderful books and this one is no exception.  It is a great story.  I found this copy for sale at a used book store and grabbed it, thinking some day I'd re-read it.  I'm glad I did.  It scared me then and it still scares me.

In December of 2054, at a university in Oxford, England, Kivrin is supposed to be sent back to December, 1320, in the hopes that she'll be dropped near enough to Oxfordshire to see how things really were.  She will stay for three weeks and learn all about the Middle Ages first hand.  Unfortunately, the technician makes a mistake and Kivrin ends up in 1348, just as the Black Plague is sweeping through the land.

Called the 'blue illness' or the 'black death' by the people of the time, the bubonic plague was nearly always fatal.  Kirvin watches helplessly as the people she has come to know die, one after another, while she survives -- she got inoculated back in 2054.  It's a horrible way to die and this author does not pull any punches.  It's gruesome and awful in places, sad and pitiful in others.

In the end, however, this book is mostly about the strength of the human spirit and that spirit shines brightly in Kivrin; in Dunworthy, her mentor; and especially in Colin, a young boy from 2054 who has courage to spare.  Father Roche, the priest of the village Kivrin stays in during her time in the past, out-shines them all.  His faith, compassion, and goodness are extraordinary.  If you love time travel books, aren't too squeamish, and are a fan of the Middle Ages, I highly recommend this novel.

Rating:  9 / 10


  1. I'm doing the Full House Reading Challenge like you and I am in the middle of reading The Doomsday Book, though I've never read it before and I will be using it for the Award Winner category (Hugo Award for Best Novel 1993). So far, I'm really enjoying it! I LOVE time travel books and I am so ashamed I never got around to reading this until now! I'm MO Librarian, BTW.

    1. There are so many good books and so little time! I hope you ended up liking it as much as I did!

  2. I've been meaning to read something by Connie Willis for ages, and now after reading this review, I know what I'll be starting with.

    1. I really think it's a great choice. I'm planning on keeping my copy. It's just that good. I'm sure I'll read it again one day.


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