Saturday, March 6, 2010

More Time-traveling Historians

Doomsday Book
by Connie Willis

Kivrin, a time traveling historian from Oxford, 2054, travels to the Middle Ages to live at the village of Skendgate during the Christmas season. Mr. Dunworthy, her mentor, worries about her going to a century that has long been deemed too dangerous for historians to visit. The tech, Badri, is experienced using the "net" and tells him that there is minimal slippage - Kivrin should arrive in 1320, just as planned. But then Badri comes down with a bad case of influenza on his way to tell Mr. Dunworthy something important, and Oxford becomes shut down under quarantine.

The two stories and times, Kivrin in the 1300s and Mr. Dunworthy in 2054, are well-balanced, switching off every few chapters, and building the tension perfectly. The story is dark at times and even heartbreaking, but humor, particularly through the characters of Colin and Mrs. Gaddson, keeps the story from becoming depressing. I came to really care about many of the people that Kivrin meets - especially Father Roche, Agnes, and Rosemund - as well as loving Colin, who was often used for humorous effect but still struck me as a realistic twelve-year-old boy.

And now I have to shame-facedly admit that I've had this book on my TBR longlist (as opposed to the short list of books currently stacked on my nightstand) for years. I read To Say Nothing of the Dog a couple of years ago when a friend recommended it, but was afraid to pick up Doomsday Book because I was afraid it would be too depressing or dark. Is it sad? Yes, at times. But it's also funny and thought-provoking and just a plain good read. I'm sorry I put it off as long as I did.

No comments: