I really wish that I had come up with the idea of historians using time travel to conduct research, because it’s such a stellar premise for historical novels. I’ve reviewed Connie Willis’ book To Say Nothing of the Dog, which is a great book, but I have to say I enjoyed Willis’ novels about the Battle of Britain in World War II far more. TSNOTD is funnier and lighter, but Blackout and All Clear develop the idea of historian time travel more completely and give a fantastic window into the time period.
Some fans of science fiction pan Willis’ books because they think they are too much historical fiction and not enough scifi, but since I’m far more interested in history I find that a bonus. Willis does a marvelous job describing her historical settings, but the time travel premise lends urgency and a unique perspective to the events and circumstances she describes.
The two books are really just one long novel, broken up into two (still long) volumes. Definitely don’t begin reading Blackout unless you have reasonable hope of access to All Clear. The books are full of detail, characters who are in the past under different aliases, and unusual twists. You probably won’t be able to figure it out as you read, so just go with it and enjoy it. Everything comes clear in the end, and having read both books, you will feel such a tremendous sense of accomplishment and relief when you finally understand it all!
In a related note, I found out about these novels from A Spirited Mind reader Sheila’s new book blog The Deliberate Reader. She’s posting lots of reviews too, so pop over to her site if you have a moment!
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