The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis


Science FictionThe Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Doomsday BookConnie Willis; Bantam Books 1993WorldCatI enjoy time travel stories and Connie Willis is an excellent author (one of my favorites). She has at least one Hugo Award to prove it, as well as other Science Fiction Writing awards. So I opened this book with high expectations. I was not disappointed. It’s a page turner!

It takes place in the 21st century when a method for time travel has been discovered. It is used by Oxford University in England for historians to study the past in real time. An enterprising history student talks her way into going back to England in 1320, about 30 years before the Black Death struck England. One professor, Mr. Dunworthy, has tried to talk her out of it, but was overruled. She disappears into the past, and within an hour a modern day virus strikes, putting Oxford on quarantine. She wakes up in 1300’s England quite ill.

The novel goes back and forth between the “present” in Oxford and the “past” in the Oxford area. The author keeps you wondering what is going to happen next. At the same time, she has the eye for the inconsequential detail that make a tale believable. Early in the book a medical doctor is expecting her teen age nephew for the Christmas season and has bought him a grey muffler (scarf). She asks Mr. Dunworthy if he thought the gift would be suitable. To himself he was thinking that he would have hated the gift if he was 15, but outwardly agrees with her. There is awful Christmas music constantly in the background. In the past two young girls bicker like all sisters do. These little things add to the texture, and at times come back into play as the novel builds.

If you haven’t read Connie Willis, this is a good one to start. Another novelette by her worth reading is The Bellwether. You also should read the sequel to this, To Say Nothing of the Dog.

More books by Connie Willis

Link to BooksLink to BetterWorld Books


  1. Comment by Jandy:

    This book remains high on my “recommended read” list. I recommend it when I’m in any pleasure reading conversations, including my book club. Willis draws real, believable people with foibles as well as strengths. I still say – READ THIS NOVEL!

  2. Comment by Jandy:

    While re-reading this book again, I watched more for the deeper themes, not just enjoying the great story I’ve read in the past. People don’t change no matter what century. Lady Imeyne is the grandmother in the 1300’s. She is a bitter woman who is never happy. At one time Kivrin wryly notices after one of Lady Imeyne’s complaints that if things had been set up the other way, that would caused the older woman’s complaints instead. Haven’t most of us met someone like that in our lives? Then there’s the pompous ass Gilchrist in the 21st century. How many times do you want to rap his head? He is stereo typical, yet again, there are many people who are also as stuffy and unyielding.

    Connie Willis has a wonderful eye for people and their interactions with each other. She sees the absurd and lets the reader see it as well.


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