Idgiepug’s #CBR4 Review #38: All Clear by Connie Willis
This sequel to Blackout was quite good, and I’m glad I finally got to read it. Like I said in my Blackout review, I wish I’d known the two went together when I first began reading so I could have read them back-to-back, but that was my own dumb fault.
The novel picks up right where Blackout left off, with three time-traveling Britons from our future who have accidentally become trapped in our past, specifically in London during the Blitz. Mike, Eileen, and Polly, as they’re known in the 1940s, have found each other but still cannot find a way out of the past. Each historian is convinced that he or she has done something to alter the future; otherwise, they should either be able to use their “drops” to get back home or a retrieval team from the future should have come to get them out. They leave ads in the papers as signs to the retrieval team they hope will arrive soon, and they try to track down all the other historians who may also be in the past with them in order to see if their drops are open. Polly’s situation is the most desperate because she was at the VE Day celebration at the end of the war, so she must get out before then or risk running into her past/future self. She’s also worried about Colin, a teenaged boy back at the historians’ headquarters in future Oxford, because he’s so crazy in love with her that he’s likely to risk himself to get to the Blitz to save her. Mike, because he’s male and because he’s managed to pass himself off as a reporter, is the one who’s most able to get out of London to search for other historians. Eileen, meanwhile, still finds herself unable to shake two London urchins, the Hodbin children, who were staying in the country house where Eileen was first stationed as a historian but who have returned to London only to find themselves in the worst of the Blitz. The Hodbins are street-wise and wily, but their living conditions and general well-being seem to have deteriorated rapidly since they returned to London. In the midst of all of this, Polly and Eileen think they might have caught a glimpse or two of their boss from Oxford, Mr. Dunworthy. If he has come back to save them, then why can’t he?
The novel makes several twists and turns and offers false hopes and depressing failures to the trapped historians. It was a lengthy book, but like Blackout it was hard to put down and kept me reading. I still prefer Willis’ To Say Nothing of the Dog, but this is a fun read.