Blackout by Connie Willis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Fifty years in our future, time-traveling Oxford historians studying key moments early in the Second World War become stranded in time in various locales around England. Like the contemporaries they are assigned to observe, the historians increasingly feel the weight of impending doom.
Doubt seeps into their belief that the continuum, the embodiment of a chaotic system, prevents damage or alteration to the time line; a self-correcting system. The butterfly effect, more aptly referenced with the catch phrase ‘For want of a nail’ becomes an argument both for and against altering the time-line. All doors back to Oxford and home seem sealed off and hope flickers and flutters against the background of air raid sirens and the Blackout.
The author peeled back the curtains to give us a glimpse of England in 1940, the astonishing courage and fortitude of her citizens. Amidst all the danger and bleakness, the light and compassion continued to shine. And the occasional comedic interludes, especially as respects to two incorrigible children, Alf and Binnie, and a rag tag amateur acting troupe forged in the shelters and tube stations during air raids, directed by a retired knighted Shakespearean actor, Sir Godfrey. Willis captures the soul of the British to a tea.
Be prepared to move directly on to the second novel immediately. The only reason I didn’t give this first novel five stars relates to the torture I would have endured waiting six months to read the second half. I didn’t torture myself, though, because I waited until All Clear was released before starting Blackout.
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