Wednesday, December 26, 2012


By Connie Willis

A time-travel novel set in London in 1940 during the Blitz.  Time-travel is apparently under the sole control of a group of British historians in Oxford in the 2060s. Several of these historians are focusing on  World War II and have gone back to study the events of that time.
But something is off at the time-travel lab. Historians are having their scheduled trips cancelled and are suddenly being sent off to locations for which they are barely prepared.  Michael, who was to go to Pearl Harbor is now supposed to head to Dover, and will pass himself off as an American reporter there to interview the heroes of the Dunkirk rescue.
Merope, also known as Eileen, has been studying a group of evacuated London children at a county manor, posing as a maid.  Polly is to be a shop girl in London so she can observe the behavior of ordinary people during the crisis.
Each historian gets much more than they expected. Merope finds it difficult to cope with the burden of work she is expected to perform and it only gets worse when the manor is quarantined because of an outbreak of disease among the evacuated children. Because of the quarantine, she is unable to leave the building and get to her drop site to return to the future. When she is finally able to get away, the drop site  is not working. So she decides to head to London to find Polly and use her drop site.
Michael is to be dropped in near Dover where a lot of the returning boats stopped to unload the rescued soldiers.  But when he arrives at the past, he is miles from where he was supposed to be. He tries to find a ride to Dover, even going so far as to get a ride on a small boat. But he is unable to find a ride. Tired, he returns to the decrepit boat but no one is there. He falls asleep on a bunk in the boat only to wake up to find himself in the middle of the evacuation. He even saves the life of a soldier and is wounded himself and wakes up in a British hospital, knowing he may have altered history by saving the soldier’s life.  He is stuck for several weeks in the hospital, too ill to leave and attempt to find a drop site.  He also is left wondering why no one from the future has come to extract him.
Meanwhile, Polly is trying to cope with life during the Blitz and it is turning out to be much more dangerous than she expected, especially when her drop zone is ruined by a bomb.  And when Michael and Merope show up hoping to use her now-defunct drop zone, it becomes clear something has gone very wrong back in 2060.

This was a very interesting and often exciting story, quite a vivid picture of life during the blitz, frequently very moving and touching. Lots of suspense, especially at the end when I discovered the story is continued in another book.  

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