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Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
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Doomsday Book (original 1992; edition 1993)

by Connie Willis

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
5,659271753 (4.11)1 / 678
Member:gambistics
Title:Doomsday Book
Authors:Connie Willis
Info:Spectra (1993), Mass Market Paperback, 592 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:None

Work details

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (1992)

  1. 244
    To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (amberwitch, Othemts, Patangel)
    amberwitch: A much lighter story set in the same universe.
    Othemts: To Say Nothing of the Dog is a more light-hearted time travel adventure which is sort of a sequel to Doomsday Book. Both are excellent, enjoyable novels.
  2. 152
    Blackout by Connie Willis (bell7, loriephillips)
    bell7: Some characters return in this story, set in 1944 England, and involving similar themes of how people react in a crisis.
  3. 102
    Eifelheim by Michael Flynn (Ape)
    Ape: Far from identical stories, but both are sci-fi takes on the black death (Eifelheim: Aliens, Doomsday Book: Time Travel.) There are numerous similarities, and I think if you like one the other might be worth looking into.
  4. 102
    Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks (labfs39)
  5. 70
    The Door into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein (Kichererbse)
  6. 50
    The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century by Ian Mortimer (Sakerfalcon)
    Sakerfalcon: A non-fiction book about everyday life in C14th England, written as though you the reader are there. Kivrin would have found this essential reading to prepare for her journey into the past.
  7. 40
    Replay by Ken Grimwood (Kichererbse)
  8. 30
    Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Rubbah)
    Rubbah: Both amazing books featuring dangerous flu like viruses and how people cope in emergency situations
  9. 76
    The Time Machine by H. G. Wells (JGolomb)
  10. 10
    The Annals of Ireland by Friar John Clyn (the_awesome_opossum)
    the_awesome_opossum: The Annals of Ireland was referenced and quoted a few times in Doomsday Book
  11. 11
    Company of Liars by Karen Maitland (Othemts)
  12. 00
    The Plague by Albert Camus (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Two books that depict how communities deal with plagues.
  13. 02
    Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: This is another book that really brings a period of history to life around you.
  14. 02
    The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter (JGolomb)
  15. 47
    World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks (cmbohn)
  16. 15
    Timeline by Michael Crichton (labrick)
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English (266)  Spanish (2)  French (2)  All (270)
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A quote from courageous young Kivrin, the medievalist who travels back in time where she lives among villagers in 14th century English: “I wanted to come, and if I hadn’t, they would have been all alone, and nobody would have ever known how frightened and brave and irreplaceable they were.”
― Connie Willis, Doomsday Book

Doomsday Book by the American author Connie Willis is an amazing, unique, captivating 600 page novel taking place in two times concurrently: near-future Oxford, England and a 14th Century medieval English village. Historian and Great Courses lecturer Teofilo Ruiz recommended this work to me and I’m glad he did – Doomsday Book is a terrific read.

The novel is science-fiction in the sense that those 21st century Brits have the technology to place historians back in time via a sophisticated version of Mr. Peabody’s WAYBAC machine (recall the 1960s cartoon where Mr. Peabody, a bespectacled intellectual dog, and his adopted human son Sherman travel back through time and meet such historical figures as Cleopatra and Nero). Take my word for it here, Doomsday Book time-travel and parallel dramas will keep you turning the pages.

And there are a lot of pages to turn, which prompts me to offer a couple of observations about reading longer novels. Really make the commitment by taking notes, creating outlines and sketching maps; a longer novel is a world unto itself and usually requires years for the author to complete. You will be honoring the integrity of the art form by devoting the needed energy to keep up with the details. The payoff is great: you’ll have the enjoyment of living for many hours in a vivid, fictional reality. Also, try listening to the audiobook as listening will open an additional dimension on the world created by the author, especially the various voices of the characters.

Anyway, back on Doomsday Book. I wouldn’t want to say too much about the storylines and thus spoil for readers because this novel is simply too good and has too many unexpected surprises. Briefly, the time-traveler is an medieval historian, a young woman by the name of Kivrin, who has a thirst for first-hand experience of the 14th century. Her wish is granted and we join Kivrin as she travels to a small medieval village and develops a deep emotional connection with a number of the villagers, including 12 year old Rosemond, 6 year old Agnes, and Father Roche, the village priest. Kivrin is given a very real and direct experience as the villagers face challenges and live the cycle of their days and nights in a harsh, hostile, rustic world. By the time I finished the book, I had the feeling I also spent time living with these medieval men, women and children. The novel is that powerful.

Meanwhile, back in 21th century Oxford, Kivrin’s mentor, a scholar by the name of Mr. Dunworthy, has his own problems with the time-travel technology and unfolding events at his school and in his town. He has to deal with an entire range of people, such as Mrs. Gaddson, an overbearing mother of one of the students, Mr. Gilchrist, a power-hungry academic, Colin, a precocious 12 year obsessed with the extremes of medieval history, Badri, a key technician for the time-travel machine, Montoya, an American Archeologist, not to mention a chorus of bell-ringers from America, including their headstrong leader. Again, I really got to know these people via the magic of Ms. Willis’s fiction.

Like all first-rate literature, Doomsday Book provides insight into what makes us all human, our dealing with love and hate, with hope and despair, with the beauty of life and those ugly and disgusting parts of life. However, there is an added component in this novel: Kivrin, our main-character and heroine, lives in a medieval world with the knowledge and historical vision of the 21st century, which adds a real spice. What a fictional world; what a reading and listening experience (I also listened to the audiobook). My modest understanding of what it must have been like to live in the 14th century has been much enriched.








( )
  GlennRussell | Feb 16, 2017 |
Riveting. Very dark. ( )
  jeddak | Jan 27, 2017 |
I had a hard time rating this book. I really liked the historical (Kivrin's) part of the story, but I didn't care much for the present day (Mr. Dunworthy's) part. I realize that the present day part of the story can't be removed entirely, but it's boring and could be pared down. The characters are great, the world building is interesting in a way that only historical fictions can pull off, and the ending is satisfactory. I'll read the next book in the series, but I hope it is a little more condensed. ( )
  ladonna37 | Jan 24, 2017 |
Oxford, London in the 2050s. Time travel has been invented, and historians use it to immersively experience the past. Kirvin is taking her first trip back, to the middle ages, supposedly a relatively safe trip to observe everyday life around the Christmas holy days. But of course, this is a story, so things go wrong …
Connie Willis’ time travel books are not about time travel. They are about letting the audience immersively experience a period in the past as her historians do, while still having a reason to have a modern voice commenting on the differences. She does this very well, bringing home what it must have felt like to live in the middle ages when disease was rampant and hope had been abandoned. She writes characters that I genuinely like and care about, who seem to be good people, and she does a good job of letting you get into their heads.
Sometimes too good of a job. The minor frustration I have with this novel is the amount of time characters spend mentally spinning their wheels, worrying about so-and-so, wondering what they are doing now, abandoning hope and recovering it again. It is part of what lets you feel immersed in their lives, but it can be tiring after a while. Similarly, this is an age where time travel is relatively routine, but for the sake of story something has to go wrong, and the series of coincidences and misfortunes required to generate the plot sometimes gets tiring. And as this was written in 1992, many of the predictions of the future feel dated – it feels like most of the future part of the book is spent with someone waiting by a phone for people to call, or being unable to get through to someone, without a cell phone, pager, or even answering machine in sight.
Despite these minor annoyances, this was a very good book that sucked me into the world and wouldn’t let go. In the few days I was reading it I had frequent dreams about being in the world setting, a sure sign that a book has caught hold of my imagination. Having read this immediately after reading two of her other oxford time travel books I think I’ll take a break before returning to read the rest of the series, but I definitely will be coming back, and soon! ( )
  mazlynn | Jan 6, 2017 |
Quick review on this one. I read this book before several years ago and it's an unusual take on time travel. In the book, time travel is used by scholars to investigate and report back about certain periods of time. One such scholar wants to check out the Middle Ages but she's accidentally placed into the middle of the Black Plague near Oxford. Fortunately she has been innoculated against it, but the people of the past have not, and to her consternation, are dropping like flies.

Back at Oxford of the 21st century, people are dying from a virulent version of the flu. Connie Willis writes in a diary style that is both interesting and provocative. I really liked the story and plan to read it again!

( )
  James_Mourgos | Dec 22, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Connie Willisprimary authorall editionscalculated
Carella, MariaDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jacobus, TimCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kuittinen, TeroTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marín Trechera, RafaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sterlin, JennyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
van Son, TomTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vanderstelt, JerryIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Youll, Jamie S. WarrenCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"And lest things which should be remembered perish with time and vanish from the memory of those who are to come after us, I, seeing so many evils and the whole world, as it were, placed within the grasp of the Evil One, being myself as if among the dead, I, waiting for death, have put into writing all the things that I have witnessed.
    And, lest the writing should perish with the writer and the work fail with the laborer, I leave parchment to continue this work, if perchance any man and any of the race of Adam escape this pestilence and carry on the work which I have begun . . . " Brother John Clyn, 1349
Dedication
To Laura and Cordelia - my Kivrins
First words
Mr. Dunworthy opened the door to the laboratory and his spectacles promptly steamed up.
Quotations
I'm in a lot of trouble, Mr. Dunworthy. I don't know where I am, and I can't speak the language. Something's gone wrong with the interpreter. I can understand some of what the contemps say, but they can't understand me at all. And that's not the worst of it. I've caught some sort of disease. I don't know what it is.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0553562738, Mass Market Paperback)

Connie Willis labored five years on this story of a history student in 2048 who is transported to an English village in the 14th century. The student arrives mistakenly on the eve of the onset of the Black Plague. Her dealings with a family of "contemps" in 1348 and with her historian cohorts lead to complications as the book unfolds into a surprisingly dark, deep conclusion. The book, which won Hugo and Nebula Awards, draws upon Willis' understanding of the universalities of human nature to explore the ageless issues of evil, suffering and the indomitable will of the human spirit.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:05 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

A grim story of a 21st century academic marooned in a 14th century English village being ravaged by the Black Death. Willis' story is the greatest post-modern time travel story of them all, a novel that combines a genre work with all the required components and a tour de force piece of storytelling.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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