Top positive review
I loved this book, even if you don't
Reviewed in the United States on November 27, 2015
This book, the second half of the omnibus novel started in Blackout, isn't for everyone, but for those who are willing to immerse themselves in the story, it's absolutely mesmerizing. Taking place during the WWII, the story jumps between several time "historians" who are time travelers from 2060 and are there to document various aspects of life during WWII. I found Michael to be rather annoying because he would fly off the handle so easily, but Polly and Merope/Eileen were just brilliant characters, as were many of the other characters, particularly Sir Godfrey and, of course, the Hodbin children. Alf and Binnie Hodbin are, without question, the naughtest children in the history of the universe, but their resourcefulness and sheer chutzpah are astonishingly entertaining. The story jumps between characters and time periods and is a bit confusing at first, but it's all sorted out in the end, so if you hang in there, you'll find out who everyone is and what happens to them all.
Connie Willis creates characters in such depth that you feel as if you're living inside their skin, especially if you listen to the audiobook while reading, which is narrated brilliantly by Katherine Kellgren. I honestly felt as if I were there in the shelters during the Blitz, living in the blackout, and dealing with the shortages and rationing. And I recently discovered a website called Bomb Sight which shows the location of just about every bomb that fell on London during the war, which will be a wonderful resource for locations when I reread this omnibus book (because I definitely will reread it; there was so much detail I lost the first time through, it will take a second reading just to have a better handle on what was going on). Connie Willis did a truly stupendous amount of research on WWII England, and it really shows. I found myself regularly doing independent research on wartime events that I might have heard of briefly in passing but had never looked into in detail, or researching people I'd never encountered before, and that added to the entire reading/listening experience for me.
I know some people find the book(s) tediously long, but I didn't. I didn't mind the historians' introspection -- since they couldn't reveal their true identity to the "contemps," after all -- especially since there's always a voice or three narrating life in my head, too. If you have plenty of time to spend and really want to learn about WWII England and immerse yourself in the life of these time travelers to the past, I highly recommend Blackout and All Clear. (And read them in that order or you'll be beyond hopelessly confused!)