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Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis

Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis (unabridged audiobook read by Katherine Kellgren; 43 hrs on 36 discs): These are actually two separate books, but they are a continuation of the same story and you really can’t read one without the other, so I’m reviewing them together.

In the future, historians study history by traveling through time and witnessing events first hand. They go incognito, with false identities and backstories, and when their assignments are up they return to the “drop,” the portal back to their own time. This is the story of three such Oxford students in World War II: Mike visiting the rescue at Dunkirk, Eileen studying evacuated children, and Polly working as a shopgirl during the London Blitz. One by one, they discover that their drops will no longer open and they are stuck in the past, in a country under attack. Back in Oxford, young Colin and Professor Dunworthy are scrambling to figure out the problem with the drop and find their students. I fully admit to a lack of knowledge of the English homefront during WWII. I didn’t know anything about the Blitz or the shelters or the sheer extent of the bomb damage. And all that was fascinating (and distressing, of course), but what really kept me enthralled were the characters. I loved Sir Godfrey the slightly snobby Shakespearean actor, Earnest and his adventures inflating tank decoys, and the party-obsessed FANYs – and I loved to hate the horrible Hodbins. As in all of Willis’s books, there is plenty of suspense, drama, and humor, and I loved every minute of it. It really should have been one book, but I guess that would have made the binding rather unwieldy. Definitely recommended, even if you’re not a WWII buff (which I certainly am not).

A note on the audio: Kellgren’s narration was marvelous, but I was especially impressed with her American accent.

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