Doomsday Book

Published December 24, 2011 by myliteraryleanings

Review of Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Overview from 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.

My Review:

Regular readers of this blog would know that I am not a fan of sci-fi. In fact, most of the time I hate it, especially the stories that have to do with aliens that have strange characteristics. However lately I am beginning to see that perhaps I shouldn’t have thrown out the baby with the bath water. Some of this books are quite good and this one is one of them.

I would never have read this book were it not for Becky at Becky’s Book Reviews (you can find her blog @ I drop in on her blog from time to time and have found that on the whole she has good taste in books. A few weeks ago she offered a challenge to her readers to read this book along with her and also to publish your own review of the book. It sounded like an interesting book and since I trust Becky’s judgement, I took her up on it. I am so glad I did.

This is a great story even for a person like me who is not a fan of sci-fi. I loved the story of time travel to the Middle Ages. I am also a huge fan of historical fiction and the Middle Ages is one of my favorite time periods so I was really interested in how this period would be portrayed by the author.

First off, the characters are great. I loved Kivrin, Mr. Dunworthy, Colin, Badri, Agnes, Rosemund, and Father Roche. I loved especially how the people of this time period were not portrayed entirely as ignorant persons who were eager to burn at the stake everyone who seemed even remotely witch-like or different. Some of these people are capable of seeing the good in others who are different as well as the good that can come out of a bad situation. And many of the characters here display remarkable courage. Although I am not a historian, I don’t see how you can conclusively say that all of the people in a given time period behaved in a certain way. Many had good hearts, I am sure of it.

The only four characters I didn’t like were Mrs. Gaddson, her son William, Gilchrist, and Latimer. Both Latimer and William in my opinion were far too complacent and careless in dealing with the situations of Kivrin’s time travel and the quarantine that was happening in 2050. Gilchrist and Mrs. Gaddson were downright mean-spirited in my view which was even worse.

I was also relieved to find that while this story entertained, it didn’t have a lot of violence or explicit sex. This proves that you can write a good novel without these ingredients, even one that is set in the future.

Also, the two stories from the past and the future connected well together. Both had a similar arch and I found it ironic how the future characters were just as complacent about the virus they faced as the ones from the Middle Ages that the historians were so quick to criticize. Perhaps, as human beings, we haven’t really grown that much despite the lessons of the past that we are privy to.

To conclude, I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the subject of time travel, history, and disease. The writer almost made me believe in time travel myself and the people and time periods I would most like to visit were I given the opportunity. The hardest part was suspending my skepticism about the possibility of time travel but once I did, I learned some great lessons about human nature. It seems that not much really changes, no matter how much time has passed.

Contains: some gross plague-like symptoms described in detail which may upset weak stomachs, and some acts of violence.

P.S. You can read Becky’s review @ if you like.


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