- Publisher: Bantam USA (1999)
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00DJY7PRK
- Shipping Information: View shipping rates and policies
- Customer Reviews: 526 customer ratings
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #316,348 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Doomsday Book Doomsday Book Paperback – 1999
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Maybe I’m just hearing what I need to hear right now, but this book was about having faith in our fellow human beings. And about the importance of living up to the faith others put in us. About caring and community and refusing to give up on one another.
I loved the details in this story, especially the bells that tie together the past and the present/future and communicate the rhythms, peaks, and valleys of human experience. I also related to the main characters. The middle portion of the story dragged quite a bit as Kivrin and Mr. Dunworthy both struggle to solve their respective problems and are repeatedly thwarted, but I felt thoroughly rewarded for my patience in the end.
I wondered as I read, "why did Ms. Willis write this book? What's the point? After I finish it, what will I say this book did well?" The answer, apparently: to allow the reader to experience the desperation and hopelessness that plague-ravished towns in rural Europe went through during the 14th century. If the Amazon blurb had said this, I wouldn't have bought it.
I gave this four stars for the slow start and because the Big Reveal, from the modern day side, is constantly delayed, even though we know it's coming. I know why the author had to do this, but she could have made the delays a bit less transparent.
I'll definitely read Doomsday Book again, and that's not something I frequently do. If you're a fan of time-travel stories, or if you're interested in the Middle Ages, or if you just like a good story, you'll like this book. The author ratchets up the intensity (maybe the slow start was deliberate) until you can't stop reading.
Update: I've read this book again and liked it even more than I did the first time. Really makes you feel the hopelessness of the Black Death.
Top international reviews
There are three characters who I still remember vividly, and who I feel that I know exceptionally well: two children and a priest. Of course, being about the plague, things were never going to turn out well for them. But I wasn't prepared for the emotional state the book got me into at the end.
I think that the protagonist from the future, and the time travel, are quite interesting - but mainly a device to allow the historical story to occur and be seen through modern eyes. A pure historical novel would present a self-contained story set in history; but this way we get to see the historical characters and their events contrasted with today's technology (the futuristic part isn't that far into the future, and I suspect just far enough to allow time travelling technology to have been discovered).
The futuristic part is ok, but the historical part is fantastic - completely believable, and a great story.
The writer also did not think through the whole time travel principle... Do yourself a favour. Don't waste your time
Do not read this book if you’re feeling fragile.
On re-reading this, although I'm still enjoying it, I am realising that there is a tad too much repetition. Also, I was a bit baffled by a scripture verse which was quoted. Apparently, and this is being used to discourage wating toilet rolls, Matthew 2 v 11 says, 'Waste not, want not.' Now, I a, reasonably familiar with the Bible and this felt wrong. My Bible was next to me, as it happened, so I checked it. It woild have been very easy for Ms Willis to do the research on this. Matt 2 v 11 actually says, 'On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary etc etc.' If you are going to quote from a book as easily obtainable as the Bible - check it first!
The premise is solid, the lead in from there is pretty competent, then it gets a bit rushed. If you are going to read it, do not read the dust jacket first!
Caution: indirect spoilers from here.
There is a twist coming in the middle but it is written on the jacket! I thought this might be an easy give-up because there was something else clever coming in the story so letting that one out didn't matter, but once that one is up the book is pretty much over. The second half is utterly predictable and rushes a bit towards the end. And then it is a bit of Hollywood ending.
I find the idea of the time travel back to a period in history but which at the time of writing was set in the future quite engrossing.
Strange how some sci-fi writers didn't predict the prevalence of cell phones and the instant communication of our time.
I found I could empathise with being in the past but the future doesn't work anymore.
The juxtaposition between the experiences of young student Kivrin, sent back in time but not to the time she ends up in, and the 'present' world she has left behind her are beautifully handled.
I love this book. I've loved it and read it for over twenty years and to finally get it on my Kindle is fantastic. You can smell fourteenth-century England. You can also smell the fear and panic in the hospital where people are ill and dying of something that shouldn't exist.
I've read a fair few books of time-travel. This is the best of all of them. I can't recommend it highly enough.
I would imagine this book wouldn't be for everyone. To start with it felt like it had been written in the 1940's somehow. But I think it's a keeper and I look forward to reading it again.
I didn't think there could be many people who could write equally well about the fourteenth century and the twenty-first and make the reader care about both, but Connie Willis manages it.