Apr. 25th, 2011

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Hello all! How have you been?

Me, mostly I have Not Been on the Internet. Clearly. On the plus side, I have read actual books, including Connie Willis' Blackout/All Clear novels and Dorothy Sayers' Wimsey novels.

I've really enjoyed Connie Willis' writing since I first came across To Say Nothing of the Dog. Blackout and All Clear are set in the same universe of time-traveling Oxford researchers. Where TSNotD uses Victorian setting to comedic effect, Blackout and All Clear focus on the trials and travails of three historians stranded in WWII London during the Blitz. Understandably, the tone is more serious, though not without humor. Unfortunately, I think the pacing suffers from the somewhat excessive attention to historical detail, and the duology could easily have been one slightly longer book or two significantly shorter ones.

Still, Willis succeeds in bringing the past to life. I was very moved by underlying premise that it was the ordinary civilians doing extraordinary things who ultimately won the war. Without the young women ambulance drivers, air raid wardens, and fisherman turned into a rescue fleet, World War II would have turned out very differently, and the world would be a very different place. The books are a great tribute to countless people whose names will never be remember but nonetheless deserve a place in history.

As a side trip, I also read Fighter Boys, Patrick Bishop's nonfiction account of the pilots of the Battle of Britain. Less time travel, more history, also fascinating.

I started Dorothy Sayers' Peter Wimsey novels after a bit of research revealed them to be the source of a significant proportion of the allusions and in-jokes in To Say Nothing of the Dog. They are, of course, thoroughly enjoyable. Hopefully, Sayers' works are getting a bump in popularity in these days of geek chic. I'm now in the odd position of eagerly awaiting the ones I haven't read (local library has some gaps in its collection) and wanting to delay the gratification, because after I read these there will, sadly, be no more new adventures of Peter Wimsey and/or Harriet Vane.

Next on the list are some biographies of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Cleopatra (long story) and Abraham Verghese's novel Cutting for Stone.


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