Jamie's Reviews > Blackout

Blackout by Connie Willis
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's review
Aug 19, 14

bookshelves: time-travel-alt-history, science-fiction, historical-fiction, favorites, wwii
Read from February 06 to 09, 2010

October update: Bump from 4 to 5 stars, when read along with the next book, All Clear.

Typically good writing from Connie Willis, and a riveting story - or half of a riveting story, at least. This is the first half of a long novel, and seems chopped off rather than deliberately crafted to be the first volume of a duology. I look forward to the next book, and I almost wish I had waited to read this one until it was available.

The rushed and disorganized Oxford historians of the future with their time travel "net" will be familiar to readers of Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog. This novel focuses mostly on three historians who position themselves to witness events in England during WWII: the experiences of children evacuated from London to the north of England in 1939; the evacuation of British soldiers from Dunkirk; and the early weeks of the London Blitz. There are other characters introduced but their storylines are abandoned, I can only presume to be picked up in the next book.

Willis tells small, personal stories with very nice historical details. I got wrapped up in the drama of each of the three main characters. The tension in the book is very well done: even though the time travelers have detailed foreknowledge of events, they're still relieved when the bomb falls on schedule and hits the "right" target, for example.

There's a strange error in one of the chapter headings. Queen Elizabeth's most famous quote ("The children won't leave without me...") is attributed to Queen Mary.
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Reading Progress

02/07/2010 page 133
25.98% ""The Blitz; the Dunkirk evacuation; the evacuation of children to northern England in 1939; the 1944 V-1/V-2 attacks on London.""
02/08/2010 page 400
78.13% "Four time-traveling historians in distress, possibly stranded in various locations in WWII England." 1 comment
02/10/2010 page 491
95.9% "Good, but it has no sort of ending at all. This is a 1000-page novel chopped in half." 1 comment
10/19/2010 page 114
23.0% "Re-reading this before I start All Clear."
10/19/2010 page 162
33.0% "
"But if the bomb had gone off, the cathedral would have collapsed. There'd have been no valiant effort to save it on the night of December 29th, no morale-lifting photograph of it standing defiant above the flames and smoke, the symbol of England's determination and refusal to surrender.""
10/19/2010 page 177
36.0% ""I am ashamed to say I told him it was the fault of the Germans." - Winston Churchill, on his grandson's getting the measles."
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Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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Lorena Wow! I had no idea this was coming out. Very exciting!

Moira Russell I had NO idea it was coming out so soon, also no idea it is HALF the story. So far it's wonderful - absolutely everything I wanted.

message 3: by Hazel (new)

Hazel Jamie, Willis is new to me. Do these books have to be read in sequence? And if so, which is the first? And are these questions relevant to a time-travel plot?!

Jamie No, her time travel books don't have to be read in sequence. They have a few characters in common, but they will each stand alone perfectly well.

The short story "Fire Watch" was published first (a time-traveling historian witnesses the efforts to preserve St. Paul's Cathedral from The Blitz), and then Doomsday Book, which is about the Black Plague and is quite sad. To Say Nothing of the Dog, however, is a comedy, and that one seems to be her most popular novel.

message 5: by Hazel (new)

Hazel Thanks, I think I've got both of those novels on my to-read list. I should take a look at the library.

message 6: by Brad (new)

Brad I may wait for both volumes to come out before reading this. From what you say, Jamie, I will be frustrated if I read this one and have to wait for completion.

Jamie The second volume, All Clear, released yesterday! I'm re-reading this one before I start the second half - I was planning to just skim it, but I've been sucked back into the story now. Connie Willis's fascination with England during WWII is palpable and contagious.

message 8: by Brad (new)

Brad Cool. So much for having to wait.

message 9: by Elizabeth (new) - added it

Elizabeth there are a lot of errors. they're just so obscure most people don't notice them.

Jamie I'm lucky I didn't notice more of them, then. It would have been distracting.

Jamie Congratulations to Connie Willis - Blackout/All Clear have been nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel - apparently as a single book.

James Good review, better than the one stars, :P

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