For the first half of this novel, I could not take the buds out of my ears! I was certain that I would assign 5 stars when I reviewed it. I loved the way it jumped from the past to the present and back again. I began to love the characters.
Later, the novel seemed to lose much of it's spark and took a left turn towards Depressing Town. Yes, the plague that ravished most of Europe in the 14th century is certainly a morose topic, however, I felt disappointed that the mood of the book seemed to change so.
I really tried to get into this, and the story was interesting, but the writing was so drawn-out and repetitive I just couldn't keep with it. I'd spend an entire 40-minute subway ride listening to essentially the same 5 minute conversation be rehashed in different ways . . . I just gave up.
I would classify this book as medieval science fiction. Since I love both genres, perhaps I am biased. It is drama, tragedy, and even comedy, all rolled into one. I thought the story construction, counterpoint between 14th and 21st centuries, and reading quality were great. If I had to mention a problem, it would be the deliberately low audio in some places. Since I listen in the car, this tendency toward sudden pianissimo was difficult to navigate.
I recommend this book and will probably listen again even though I very rarely do that.
In the not too distant future, Historians learn their trade by traveling through time and experiencing the past for themselves. When a historian, Kivrin, is accidentally transported to 1348, rather than 1320 she finds herself in the midst of the plague as it is sweeping through Europe. Meanwhile, a mysterious illness is also sweeping through Oxford in her own time period, a time when disease has all but been eradicated. This is a wonderfully written book which juxtapositions two completely different story lines very nicely. It's a history and sci fi novel nicely wrapped into one. The characters in this book are wonderful. I especially love all of the different dynamics in the family that Kivrin comes to live with. There is the little rambunctious 5 year old,Agnes, who is a bit wild and selfish, is so full of life and fascination of the world around her, it is almost as if Kivrin is experiencing the time more through Agnes' eyes then her own. Rosemaund is the 10 year old who is forced to grow up too fast, having already been betrothed to an old, foul knight, who scares her so much that she is more afraid of her marriage to him, then the plague when she becomes infected. When the story skipped to the future story line I must admit, that I found myself wanting to just get on with it, because I wanted to go back to Kivrin's story. Plus I admit, the story really dragged when it was in that story line.
Drama teacher and Sci-Fi/Fantasy fan
After listening to Michael Drout's lecture on Science Fiction (From Here to Infinity), I picked up Connie Willis' novel. The premise is beautiful. A section of a future Oxford devotes itself to historical study via time travel. These students study a particular time in order to experience it first hand. Willis' research is evident through Kivrin, the novel's protagonist. And Jenny Sterlin's handle of Middle English is impressive!
Where Willis falls short is in some of the technology in the future. In a world where time travel is possible, you would think that some of the other types of tech would be more impressive. However, I don't think that was Willis' focus, and it doesn't take the reader away from the novel too much. I found myself preferring to listen to Kivrin's story in 14th century England instead of what was going on with her colleagues.
Essentially, the novel has two parallel stories. And yes, the novel is predictable in the sense that you know the twist before it happens. But again, I don't think this was Willis' intent. She was not writing a suspense novel, although this could have easily have become one. Read Michael Crichton's TIMELINE if that's what you want. Instead, her narrative is much more literary and thought provoking -- having as much to say about people and human nature as futuristic time travel and scholarly research.
I wasn't sure if I would like this story or not but I love historical novels & this narrator so I gave it a try. The story was really good and I didn't feel it was too long at all. At first the story was a bit slow to get started but once I got past the initial chapter or two I never lost interest. Jenny Sterlin is such an excellent narrator that I went and searched her other reads to order some more. As some other reviewers have mentioned there are some really depressing parts of this book but I would expect that out of any book that partially takes place during The Black Death.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in sci-fi or historical novels & especially the narrator. I can't wait to read the other 3 books in this series.
Time travel books certainly aren't new but this one was special. Initially I thought it was going to be too long but it had you really caring about the present day people as well as all the charaters the time traveler met. I'm ready to listen to the next one.
Spoiler Alert : Losing the whole family to the plague and the strength of the priest wiht to the end.
I think she helped keep your interest. As I've said its a long book but its never boring and I think her narration was part of that.
No, It was just a very enjoyable book.
I will definetly be listening to the series.
Checking out Brandon Sanderson's work
As the first of the series - that I read in the wrong order, this was great. The reading was excellent and the story still great. I really recommend this audio book.
I loved the characters, the interplay between 13th century plague and a modern quarantined outbreak. Nephew Colin provided welcome comic relief. It also seems to me as if the imperious, bossy old lady everyone is scrambling to avoid is a stock Willis character. Will need to read more of her books to see if this trope holds true. The details about medieval life were fantastic. I really felt like I was "there".
Definitely Colin, and I usually hate pesky, worldly-wise moppets. But he really worked for me.
She has a very pleasing voice and brought Kivirin to life as an almost angelic presence, which is how some of the contemps came to view her.
Without spoiling the plot, I would not care to say.
The second half of this book does take quite a grim turn, but ultimately, I think the presence of Colin provides enough buoyancy to carry you along to a fairly satisfactory ending.
I learnt much about the Black Death from this work, and often felt quite sickened but informed. An entertaining read, with the time-travel theme similar to that of "To Say Nothing of the Dog", which I also enjoyed.
One easily relates to each character, in typical Connie Willis style.
My heart bled for the cow!!!!!
Excellent narration. I loved the British accent, and I love lengthy, quality books from Audible.