Erratic sleep due to books

So another week on the sleep regimen has passed & really, nothing too exciting to report. Mostly I fall asleep around 1am & wake up around 6. So, it seems the ‘staying asleep’ issue is improving & the ‘falling asleep’ issue still needs work.

And I have cheated on the no chocolate thing a few times to the tune of 1 Reese’s Cup and 2 dozen M&Ms with no real effect one way or the other.

End of story.

Now on to an even better story, which is the reason for the ‘mostly’ in the opening paragraph.

I checked out two books from the library on Monday & spent Monday-Wed consumed with reading them, so much so I totally lost track of time & forgot to meet the boys’ bus Tuesday & found out just what happens when no parent is waiting…

They call the house & inform you the bus is at the end of the driveway & would you please go get your kids.

All that angst last year about CPS…

The books I read were by Connie Willis – Blackout & All Clear. They are combined about 1200 pages, so they are an investment in time (not to mention money but my copies came from the library). You cannot read one without the other. If you just read Blackout you will be annoyed,confused, irritated & have no idea how it ends. If you read just All Clear you will be confused, probably irritated & have no idea how it began.

These books tell the story of 3 time travelling historians (Mike, Polly & Merope/Eileen) from Oxford in 2060 who travel back to 1940 to study various aspects of the early part of WWII on the English psyche – specifically Dunkirk, the Blitz and London evacuees in their relocations. Each of them was only supposed to be there a short time but due to various circumstances they are each unable to return to 2060 & find themselves trapped in the past. Eventually they meet up in London, each hoping the others’ ‘drops’ are working.  A good deal of both books is spent on speculation as to why this happened, is someone watching their drops? did they accidentally change history? but historians can’t change history, that’s been proven, right? or not? or is it something else entirely?

The narrative hops around in time between 1940, 1945, 1995 & 2060 as we learn about various characters visits to those times & efforts by the time travel team in 2060 to get the drops to open & rescue the stranded travellers.

There is a wealth of period detail in there books. To say I felt like I was there does not convey the wealth of detail. London in the Blitz is wonderfully researched & the day to day lives of ordinary people comes through excellently. The main characters are fully drawn & you care about them, so much so my brain could not let it go & kept me up most of Monday & Tuesday night speculating on what happens next & going back over bits trying to draw conclusions & wondering if any of the were going to die. After all, it was the Blitz & while the characters had some knowledge of which Underground Stations were going to be bombed, that knowledge ended in December 1940, so come Jan 1, 1941 they were in the same position as the contemps, never knowing when or where a bomb might hit.

The main criticisms I have seen of these books are that they are 1. too long & 2. there is too much repetition as the characters run around & around checking drops & trying other things to get word back to 2060.

However I have just recently read Land of the Painted Caves & let me say Connie Willis has nothing on Jean Auel for length & repetition.

I’d much rather read about Mike, Polly & Eileen trying desperately to contact fellow historians through various means (and failing) repeatedly than the endless repetitive description of every single cave painting in prehistoric France.

Willis’ makes far more sense. Imagine you were trapped in the past. Wouldn’t you do everything you can think of to get back, even if all the previous attempts to connect had failed, wouldn’t you keep trying? IMO that needs to be described fully to convey the emotions & desperation felt by the characters. Not to mention the motivation for later actions and the conclusion.

Whereas nothing is really added to the story by yet another description of yet another horse on yet another cave wall.

Though perhaps we did not need to keep hearing about Polly’s deadline & the whole ‘for want of a nail’ metaphor could have been cut from a few places. (much like the Mother’s Song in Painted Caves could have as well)

There are small annoyances, like Wardrobe in 2060, where time travellers get appropriate clothing. Wardrobe can’t find a tweed jacket or a black skirt. Seriously? In Oxford? I suppose we’ve all switched to polyester jumpsuits by then, but no there are contemporary people walking around wearing both. Perhaps they are wearing the only ones still in existence?

There are the Hodbin children, who are at times completely believable & at other times completely implausible.  They can be quite hysterical though & turn out to be very important indeed.

Then there is the popular ‘keeping secrets so as not to worry others’ plot device that can & did go on a bit too long. (Really, if I have learned nothing else from fiction it is to trust other adults can handle the truth & you should tell it to them.Even if they seem distraught & you want to save them from more distress.  Otherwise they will draw their own conclusions, take their own misinformed actions & cause even more problems than you thought the truth would.)

There was also the confusion of names the FANYs in 1945 gave one another, using first names, last names & a variety of nicknames, often for the same person, including what I can only assume were all names of WWII era British motorcycles, which left me feeling the same way I did about Ford Prefect’s name in HHGTTG – as if there was a joke, I just was not in on it – and then when one of those names turned out to be Douglas I was convinced it was a sign I was correct.

And last there is part of the conclusion, which left me, and a number of other reviewers going “wait, what?” and paging back through previous chapters to figure out the cryptic statements.

These books are a wonderful mix of historic fiction & sci fi. There is humor, tragedy, perseverance, sacrifice & triumph. I highly recommend them to non-insomniacs & as for my fellow non-sleepers…just surrender & stay up & read them, you won’t sleep anyway.

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8 comments to Erratic sleep due to books

  • Gem

     I love your style of describing the book – it really makes me feel like I'm in the book, and makes me want to read it too! IKWYM about not wanting to put a book down, I've been known to read a book into the early hours just to discover the ending!Hope you sort out your sleep problems xx

  • Helena

    I love connie willis – jsut re-read Doomsday book before lending it to my nephew's girlfriend who is studying history and how we perceive history. 

    this duo is on my list for the summer 

    have you read her non time travel ones too?  I really enjoyed them

  • humel

    OK, I'm intrigued! I'll be looking out for these at the library :) 

  • Rinda1961

     Nice book review. I'm just starting on my summer reading with Bangkok 8.Rinda

  • Andrea @ The Creative Junkie

    OMG, just the thought of time travel makes my brain hurt. I'm still not over Lost and the stupid series finale. I was pretty much lost during the entire series – no pun intended.

    There have been a couple of times when I forgot to raise the garage door when Helena got off the bus. I thought at first that they wouldn't let her off for safety's safe but nope, she came off, the bus drove off and she opened the garage door herself. I didn't know if I should be annoyed at the bus system or simply relieved.

  • Alison

    Another two books to add to my reading list…TFS!Alison xx

  • LosingBrownies

     I love reading! I once stayed up all night reading Harry Potter (I got into the series late) books and was up until 5 am. I had to call in "sick" to work that day.

  • Wendy Bukowski

     I've not read any Connie Willis but these sound good. Just checked on-line with my library though and they don't have them, it may have to be Amazon!! with my library though and they don't have them, it may have to be Amazon!!