The Doomsday Book By Connie Willis

doomsdayThis was a re-read for me,and one that was a long time coming. I probably first read this back in college and have been fondly remembering and referring to it ever since! I love time travel stories, and especially enjoy Willis’s version of time travel-set in Oxford, it’s for academics and historians.As usual with Willis the history in this story is impeccably researched and lavishly detailed. It’s easy to imagine her sitting in the Bodleian Library poring over prime sources and ancient original documents, to make sure that everything-village names, distances between villages, geography, speech patterns, etc.-are authentic and accurate.
Kivrin is an eager historian at the University ready to take her first trip to the Middle Ages, a trip her informal mentor thinks is ill-advised and dangerous. She’s confident that since her destination is before the plague is known to have arrived she’ll be fine. Once she goes through, though, things go wrong in both times and you find yourself quite caught up in the mysteries and race against time. The parallel plague stories are heartbreakingly similar, something I either didn’t remember or possibly didn’t even notice the first time I read this?
I was pleased to find that it had been so long since I read this that I didn’t remember the ending! There were bits and pieces that did come back to me as I read though. (One detail my mom and I never forgot is that they wanted to cauterize Kivrin’s nostrils, or inside I guess, thinking the odor of the Middle Ages would be too intense for a modern person.)This was every bit as wonderful as I remembered and I shall continue to recommend it and think well of it for another twenty years!

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Landline by Rainbow Rowell

landlineThe entire concept of this book was so appealing to me as it verged on time-travel. A woman  picks up the old phone in her mother’s house (in her old bedroom) and calls her husband, who is visiting his parents at their house, but when her husband answers it’s her husband 15 years ago who answers!  Georgie is a tv writer in LA. She’s got her wonderful husband Neal, who is a stay at home dad to their daughters. Her writing partner is Seth, and she’s been with him since college. Seth and Georgie are pretty successful but they are on the brink of getting the green light for their own show that they’ve been developing and dreaming of since college. The only problem is they need to get 4 scripts ready for a December 27 meeting and Georgie is supposed to go to Omaha with Neal and the kids for Christmas. Neal goes, she stays, and the cracks in their marriage loom large. Georgie ends up at her mother’s house where she calls Neal to say hello and that she still loves him, but that’s when she gets 15 years ago Neal, which was another turning point in their relationship.  She’s not sure if she’s going crazy or what, but she can’t stop talking to him and trying to pre-emptively make things better in their marriage.
For a book that could have been nothing but boring gloomy relationship talks, I found this actually quite fast paced and I really liked it a lot. The concept was enchanting, I was rooting for Georgie and Neal, the tv business is like catnip to me, and Georgie’s mother and sister are hilarious characters (her mother has a penchant for younger men, has a 40 year old husband, and tells her daughter she is sensual.)

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

timeI’ve had a prepub of this for a while and been dying to read it. I finally got to pick it up yesterday and it’s an engrossing, zippy, not-too-long read, so I’ve already finished it.  Here’s the premise in a nutshell and you will see why I wanted to read this: time travelers escape a future that has been ravaged by global warming and pandemics by travelling to 2014, where despite strict rules, one of the teens falls for a time native.  It’s like Brashares just made a list of things I like and stuck them all together. And you know? That works for me.
An attempt to identify a pivotal moment and change the damned future? Check.
A realization that the pills you are made to take every day are not for your “health and safety”? Check. (Dude-NEVER take the health pills. They are always controlling you!)
Uncanny surveillance which makes your growing intimacy with another and realization that things are not as they seem quite dangerous? Check.
One day of happiness where you both get away from it all and pretend the world doesn’t hinge on your actions? Check.

I loved this. It reminds me of After Eden, The Clearing, and Across the Universe. I had forgotten (until I searched “time travel” among my books read) that Brashares had written My Name Is Memory, which I had liked as it was romantic and incorporated not exactly time travel, but reincarnation and a time travel feel.  Much as I loved all the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books when they came out, I really love this direction she’s going in and hope she writes more stories like this.