Sunday, June 21, 2015

Blackout/All Clear

All ClearAll Clear by Connie Willis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is also a review for Blackout, as the two books are really one long story. The end of the first isn't really even an ending - the story stops, and is immediately picked up where it left off in the second. Don't read Blackout unless you have a copy of this one at hand!!

These two books tell the story of several time traveling historians, from the year 2060, as they observe events in Britain during WWII. Each chapter follows a different time period and different characters - sometimes it's a single character, sometimes it's a group of them. (PAY ATTENTION AT THE BEGINNING OF BLACKOUT!!!! The first few chapters are kind of confusing, but lots of very important things are said and done - or not said and not done - which you have to know for the rest of both books.) The tension in the plot comes from both the circumstances the characters are in (the London Blitz, the evacuation at Dunkirk, driving an ambulance), and also the fact that there seems to be something going wrong with the whole mechanics of time travel. (I won't get into specifics to avoid spoilers.)

We end up following three main characters, Polly (observing the Blitz, driving an ambulance), Eileen (observing evacuated children in the north of England) and Mike (observing the evacuation at Dunkirk.) Each of these characters is fairly well-developed, with their own personalities and motivations. (Personally, I think Eileen deserves sainthood for not killing the Horrible Hodbins!) It can be a bit confusing, however, as the historians don't always use the same name in each time period. Again - pay attention.

As we observe each historian, we also get to observe the events in which they are embedded. This history is wonderfully researched and presented to the reader. I really felt as if I were there during the bombings! (In fact, at one point when I was reading outside, a prop-plane flew over the house, and my first thought was that it was the Germans!) These books would be perfect for anyone who wants to know what it was like living in England during WWII.

At times, I was a bit confused as to what was happening (I didn't pay close enough attention at the beginning), and the time travel sometimes made my brain hurt, trying to keep it all straight. And, I did feel as if the pacing was on 'full speed ahead' the entire time. Even the humorous bits with the Hodbins or the acting troupe all came during fairly stressful events, so there didn't seem to be any let up in tension or action. However, all that notwithstanding, these were two very enjoyable (and educational) books. Willis knows how to write!!

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