I am a blind lawyer and aspiring writer, trying to read a little bit of everything but partial to sci-fi and military fiction.
After finishing the book, I had to look up the classification referenced in the title of the review. I won't spoil the scene from which it comes; but I think it applies to the book as well as the subject of the conversation. It is that conversation among others, towards the end of the book that leads me to rate All Clear and Blackout as 5s, regardless of their shortcomings. Given that Blackout isn't even a complete novel, this should say something to you.
I was a bit taken aback by the radiant praise heaped upon Ms. Willis's writing when I glanced over the publisher's summary while waiting for the book to download. I mean sure, I'd been enthralled enough by the characters and world of Blackout to forge on (I'd bought the book long ago and just had to download it) but seriously, "uplifting and devastating?" Well, regardless of whatever else I might have thought then, the acclaim is worth it. This book brings to life the struggles of ordinary people by contrasting them with very extraordinary observers trapped by a very different sort of peril than the blitz. The author also uses time travel as a means to depict the depth of love represented by truly selfless sacrifice in entirely amazing ways. It is one thing to give one's life in a spontaneous act, quite another to devote what might very well be the rest of your life engaged in mundane tasks seeking the rescue of a friend you might, and probably will, never see again. At the same time, along with the time travelers, the reader meets any number of people "doing their bit," by putting out fires, decoding German messages, driving ambulances, putting on silly shows, and raising other people's children. Many characters embody a spirit that is often ridiculed or exploited, and through the magic of Ms. Willis's words, bring out its power and beauty.
There are a great many scenes in which characters deliberate, perhaps overly much, on the unique pitfalls of their situation, but I think it's generally relevant to the story, despite its repetitiveness. I also think it unfair to the characters to dwell overly much on how often they worry about delayed arrivals, given the very uncertain dangers and the singular nature of the people involved, the only person who knows who you really are is going out into a city regularly beset by aerial bombardment on top of every conceivable "normal" hazard of urban life; I actually worried every time the characters separated.
I've come to think of the degree to which I miss the characters of a story as a measure of just how much I enjoyed it; I think I'll be carrying around memories of Polly and Merope's triumphs and tragedies with me for quite a long while.
As a long time Willis fan, I want to give this story a higher rating but I can't. There are several things I find problematic about the story itself, pace being one of them. It does go on far too long, although often in enjoyable ways. It's a fun read but not her best.
However, I can't fault the narrator. As always, Kellgren does an excellent job.
"That's no way to talk in the presence of ladies, you bleedin' sod," the first man said belligerently….
"Beggin' your pardon, misses. I shouldn't 'ave called 'Itler a little bastard. 'E's the biggest bastard what ever lived."
I think I have an ulcer now. The suspense, the frenetic pace of the book – hurry here, get diverted, rush elsewhere, find or miss that being looked for, if found that thing leads to another search, sprint here and there, hither and yon, at top speed, with constant interruptions and rerouting and balks and blocks and detours and dead ends… Needing to be at point A, and being required to go to point B, and then there's point C, which is equidistant to B from A… and then point D gets thrown in for good measure, also equidistant. Will they make it?! People squirting off in all directions, appearing and disappearing and obstructing and getting injured and waylaid and oh lord what now without notice. So many interruptions and interceptions and all so very well-meaning, or so very necessary, and … Yikes.
But rarely has an ulcer ever been earned in so enjoyable a fashion.
These aren't "easy" books. Not only is there the cross-stitch element of time travel to take into account, but Connie Willis isn't easy on her characters. Oh, sure, the comedy can be flowing – say, Alf and Binnie up to high-larious hijinks … but then a moment later comes the reminder that these two irrepressible vivacious children are, like everyone else in England (most of Europe), constantly under a Damoclean sword, with doom hanging by the finest of horsehairs over their heads. You just never know how it's going to go – anyone could die (everyone could die), or be left behind, or be somehow discovered, at any moment – or a fellow time traveler could show up, or time could be irretrievably altered…
Connie Willis has an intensely frustrating way of cutting away to one of the side plots – and then bringing that action to a crisis point at the end of the chapter and … returning to the main story again. Argh. And I say that with the greatest respect.
On the other hand, Connie Willis is so easy to read. Her writing is as transparent as good glass – by which I mean it's so good it disappears, leaving her characters and their settings in full color and three dimensions in your mind. Nothing is predictable, everything is immediate (Connie Willis doesn't need to use the present tense to create immediacy), and the suspense can be intense. And all the while she will make you laugh –
"Oh, dear. I do hope I didn't say anything I shouldn't have. I didn't confess undying love to some girl fifty years my junior, did I? Or quote Peter Pan?"
– and make you cry –
"We live in hope that the good we do here on earth will be rewarded in heaven. We also hope to win the war. We hope that right and goodness will triumph, and that when the war is won, we shall have a better world. And we work toward that end. We buy war bonds and put out incendiaries and knit stockings---"
And pumpkin-colored scarves, Polly thought.
"---and volunteer to take in evacuated children and work in hospitals and drive ambulances" - here Alf grinned and nudged Eileen sharply in the ribs - "and man anti-aircraft guns. We join the Home Guard and the ATS and the Civil Defence, but we cannot know whether the scrap metal we collect, the letter we write to a solider, the vegetables we grow, will turn out in the end to have helped win the war or not. We act in faith.
"But the vital thing is that we act. We do not rely on hope alone, thought hope is our bulwark, our light through dark days and darker nights. We also work, and fight, and endure, and it does not matter whether the part we play is large or small. The reason that God marks the fall of the sparrow is that he knows that it is as important to the world as the bulldog or the wolf. We all, all must do 'our bit'. For it is through our deeds that the war will be won, through our kindness and devotion and courage that we make that better world for which we long."
- sometimes at the same time.
"We must trust in God's goodness," Miss Hibbard said, patting her hand.
Mrs. Wyvern patted it too. "God never sends us more than we can bear."
"Everything which happens is part of God's plan," the rector intoned.
Sir Godfrey came up to her, his hat in his hand.
If he has some appropriately cheerful Shakespeare quote, like "There's a divinity that shapes our ends," or "All will yet be well," I'll never forgive him, Polly thought.
"Viola," he said, and shook his head sadly. "'The rain it raineth every day.'"
I love you, she thought, tears stinging her eyes.
Connie Willis's writing is possibly the most human I know of. All the variegated emotions of humanity, and the heightened emotions of humanity at war: she's got them down.
She knew now how Theodore's neighbor felt. She wanted to shut herself in the cupboard under the stairs and stay there, even if it offered no protection at all. But that was impossible. She had to make Mr. Dunworthy soft-boiled eggs and tea and keep Alf from asking him how it felt to be blown up and Binnie from sharing her opinions of fairy tales, had to learn her lines, practice tap routines, rip ruffles off her costumes and sew sequins on them. And face Eileen's unquenchable optimism.
There are a lot of books out there (not enough, but quite a few) which feel like I could step into and find my way around. Connie Willis's world feels like it settles around me as I read – or listen – and when I have to put aside the book it seems strange that no one is dropping bombs on me and that I'm stuck in this time and place.
The narration helps a great deal in that, with these audiobooks. Katherine Kellgren is brilliant and I love her and will listen to anything she reads which isn't Fifty Shades of Anything.
I am a clay sculptor and an art instructor at a community college. I mostly listen to audiobooks while I work in my home studio.
If you're considering All Clear, you've read Blackout already or you need to.
This one is just as good or better. Enjoy.
This book seems like it was written for an adolescent or teenage audience - but regretfully does not deliver the goods - even for that audience.It is repetitive, boring and slow. The protagonists bumble around in the dark repeating errors and themes in a seemingly endless cycle. The characters never develop, showing neither common sense nor worldliness even though they are supposedly experienced time - travelling historians.There were no reasons (other than chasing dollars) to make this a two volume (Blackout and All Clear). In fact the obvious attempt to stretch this tale out into two books is what makes it so bad.the ingredients are there for a good story. It could have been a wonderful novel delivered in about 250 pages. Too bad.
No the genre is great.
The narration was great.
Save your money and your time and do not buy these two books.
This story, which started in "Blackout" was slow and even boring at times, but it all came together in the last few hours of "All Clear" in such a satisfying way as to make it all much more than simply worthwhile. There have been many great stories of time travel, but never one so intelligent and believable as this.The characters are wonderful and you will be very sorry to leave them for good at the end of the story. Many of the characters will surprise you. This is an author that obviously loves people and is able to see more than just a little good in all of them. When it all ends, you will both be satisfied and wish there was more.It would be impossible to give too much praise to this narrator. I, for one, cannot believe a more talented narrator exists. Her ability to give a complete and different personality to every character is beyond belief and her complete command of all English accents cannot be matched! Through all of this, she always speaks clearly never making the listener struggle to understand a single word.
Blackout and All Clear.
I liked these books, but don't start the first one unless you are prepared to listen to the second. I would listen to these books again sometime which is my primary standard for any written or audbile book. I go back to the stories I like to walk around in the world the author created. Willis created characters that I liked, that I cared about and that, overall, acted believably.
All that said, I think that these books could have benefited from better editing. Willis, at times, becomes very tedious describing the characters' angst over changing time or each others' welfare. In the second, all clear, there are stream of consciousness sections of characters who have suffered traumatic injuries and who can't keeep events and times separated. Although generally well done, these started to get so tedious that I wanted to slap some sense into the character. However, since I wanted to slap the character instead of the author, I guess Willis did a good job suspending disbelief.
The narration is superb.
The precision of historical records and following datelines were amazing. The writer accomplished a feat of fact and fiction keeping it well in balance and also maintaining a point of "Whats gonna happen next".
The Hopkins, what a terror those two were.
The first play
No. This is time taking experience. I believe it would take a solid week to hear all in one sitting
this is part 2. If you do not read Blackout first, you will be totally lost
I listened to Black Out and All Clear back-to-back and found All Clear to be so confusing that I spent 95% of the book going, "huuuh?" It is excessively detailed and very convoluted. It was, however, perfectly put together in the end, but wading through 2 lengthy books to figure out what the H was going on was a bit much. Connie Willis, is a brilliant writer/researcher though and I have loved her writing style despite the confusion.
This book continues the story begun in "Blackout." I couldn't wait to keep listening to find out what happened to the characters and how their problems were resolved. Once again a very engaging plot and characters, with amazing attention to historical details, in a way that brings the era to life.