Saturday 25 April 2020

Hist Fic Revisited ~ Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

On the last Saturday of the month I have decided to feature the historical fiction I have enjoyed over the last forty or so years. 

Starting with a classic from 1992.

Let's do a bit of time travelling..

New English Library

For Kivrin, preparing an 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 her instructors in the twenty-first century, it meant painstaking calculations and careful monitoring of the rendezvous location where Kivrin would be received.

But a crisis strangely linking past and future strands Kivrin in a bygone age 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.

What did I think about it..

I have enjoyed some great historical fiction over the last forty or so years of my adult reading. I first came across Doomsday Book in 1992 and it has remained one of my favourite time travel stories.

During this difficult time in which we find ourselves in I thought that Doomsday Book would be a good place to start this series of Hist Fic Revisited. This time around I have listened to the Audible version expertly narrated by English actress, Jenny Sterlin. Listening to someone read the story has given everything a new dimension and brought the story to life in quite a different way. 

As I have mentioned, Doomsday Book is a very timely read as it uses as it's focus the effect of an epidemic caused by an unknown virus which hits the town of Oxford in 2054, a town which, despite being placed under strict quarantine, suffers catastrophic losses from this new and deadly virus which has no known vaccine. At the same time as the fight against the epidemic, there is also a race against time as an Oxford tutor strives to bring back his student who is lost in fourteenth century Oxford.

The medieval strand of the story looks at the journey made by Kivrin, a history student at Oxford University, who despite the misgivings of her tutor, Mr Dunworthy, travels back in time to Oxfordshire in 1320. There she hopes to undertake a study of ordinary medieval life before making the journey back to her own time. However, all does not bode well for Kivrin, as when she arrives in the past it's not quite what she imagined and her time there is fraught with danger, disease and despair. 

Is the story as good as I remember? 

There's a certain amount of repetition which I don't remember, particularly in 2054 Oxford which seems, as we are now nearer to 2054 than we were in 1992, more than a little dated.  And the story meanders rather more than I recall with most of the action happening during the last third of the novel but that part is just as tense as I remember, particularly for Kivrin. The medieval part of the story remains the stronger of the two strands and it is the part of the story which I find the most interesting.

It's a bit of a marmite book, love it or loathe it it remains one of my all time historical favourites ๐Ÿ˜Š

The audio narration has been available since 2008 and is quite an investment with a listening time over 26 hours, but it's been an enjoyable way to while away the hours of this lock down period.

Constance Elaine Trimmer Willis is an American science fiction writer. She is one of the most honored science fiction writers of the 1980s and 1990s.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for taking the time to comment - Jaffareadstoo appreciates your interest.