Thursday, December 15, 2011

(Revisiting) Doomsday Book

Doomsday Book. Connie Willis. 1992. Random House. 592 pages.

Mr. Dunworthy opened the door to the laboratory and his spectacles promptly steamed up.
"Am I too late?" he said, yanking them off and squinting at Mary.

I first read Connie Willis' Doomsday Book last October. (You can read my first review.)  It was a book I knew I HAD to reread soon. In fact, I was tempted to reread it that very year. But. I also wanted to save it for this December because it is--in a way--a holiday book. It's not so Christmas-y that you couldn't read it in July or February. But. It feels just right to cozy up with it next to the Christmas tree.

What did you like most about the novel? (Or what did you like least...)

I loved just about everything in Doomsday Book. I liked the writing--the narrative. I liked the setting, the world-building. I liked the premise--I love reading about time travel!!! I loved the history--again, I love historical fiction. It's just a COMPELLING read with characters that I just loved. I liked how it was very serious, very dramatic. Yet it wasn't without humor or lightness.

Which storyline did you prefer? The past or the present?

I loved both stories. The one set in the 21rst century (2050s I believe) and the one set in the 14th century.
I thought both centuries were peopled with interesting characters. I thought both stories were important in telling the whole story. One story wasn't 'better' than another.

Which characters did you like best? 

Mr. Dunworthy, Kivrin, and Colin were probably my favorite characters. Although Dr. Mary Ahrens, Agnes, and Father Roche aren't too far behind. I really thought so many characters were developed well.

Where there any characters that you hated?

I wanted to boo and hiss every time Gilchrist spoke. Seriously. I HATED him so much. I did really enjoy seeing the other characters hate him too. Mrs. Gaddson is another that comes to mind. Though I didn't really hate her at all. I mean she was so good at being 'a character' that drives everyone around them crazy, so good at being a pest, that I actually liked her scenes because they provided comic relief. Like some of the characters Austen created. You wouldn't want to spend time with them yourself, but, they're fun to laugh at all the same.

Do you think the novel is more plot-driven or character-driven?

Both I think. I mean it was, for me, a fast-paced novel. It was emotional; it was compelling. Near impossible to put down. You might think that since it is a reread, there wouldn't be this urgency to it. That I could take my time. But no. I got caught up in the story and have to keep reading. I think the time-travel element--the premise--is important in a way. It will appeal to a certain type of reader. But. I also think the characters add so much to it. I mean these are very human characters. The situations in the novel are very intense, and it's hard not to CARE about them. And I think the characters are memorable.

Is this a novel you'd recommend to others? 

Yes! I still think it's a great, great book. Rereading it only helped me realize how MUCH I do love this one!!!

If you read this one with me, please leave your thoughts in the comments, or leave a link to your review. I'd love to know what you thought!

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Vasilly 4:30 PM  

The Doomsday Book is one that I'm thinking about reading next year for the Chunkster Challenge. It sounds so good.

Becky 7:04 PM  

Vasilly, I think you should!!! I think everyone *should* read this book. I just love it so much!!! All of Connie Willis' time travel books are so good, and I think all of them are eligible for the chunkster challenge!

Sunday Smith 7:33 PM  

I love Connie Willis and was able to see her MC the Hugo awards TWICE! and she is just as funny in person.

This was most likely my favorite book she has written, though I did like the Bellwether and To Say Nothing of the Dog almost as well. Fire Watch is good and set in the same universe.

Michele Poague, author of the Heir to Power, said she wrote the Healing Crystal Trilogy because she was waiting for Connie Willis to write it and when Connie didn't, Michele knew she had to. (I think she is a fan of Connie Willis!)

Cozy in Texas 6:54 AM  

Sounds intriguing.

Susan (Reading World) 4:03 PM  

This does sound good. Usually I like historical fiction straight- no time travel or paranormal elements or other elements thrown into the mix, but this review is so enthusiastic I may have to bend that rather flexible rule.

Lisa 6:36 PM  

Becky, I want you to know that I took you up on your suggestion that we read the book along with you and publish our own review. Mine is @

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I'm always happy to hear from you! To help fight spam, comment moderation has been set up for posts older than two days. Feel free to ask me questions or ask for recommendations!

Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
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