All Clear

All Clear

by Connie Willis


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553807677
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/19/2010
Pages: 656
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.90(d)

About the Author

Connie Willis, who was recently inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, has received six Nebula awards and ten Hugo awards for her fiction; her novel Passage was nominated for both. Her other works include Blackout, Doomsday Book, Lincoln’s Dreams, Bellwether, Impossible Things, Remake, Uncharted Territory, To Say Nothing of the Dog, Fire Watch, and Miracle and Other Christmas Stories. Connie Willis lives in Colorado with her family.

Read an Excerpt

Well, he hasn't come yet, sir, he's more than a bit late tonight.

—London Porter to Ernie Pyle, referring to the German Bombers

London—26 October 1940

By noon Michael and Merope still hadn't returned from Stepney, and Polly was beginning to get really worried. Stepney was less than an hour away by train. There was no way it could take Merope and Michael—correction, Eileen and Mike; she had to remember to call them by their cover names—no way it could take them six hours to go fetch Eileen's belongings from Mrs. Willett's and come back to Oxford Street. What if there'd been a raid and something had happened to them? The East End was the most dangerous part of London.

There weren't any daytime raids on the twenty-sixth; she thought. But there weren't supposed to have been five fatalities at Padgett's either. If Mike was right, and he had altered events by saving the soldier Hardy at Dunkirk, anything was possible. The space-time continuum was a chaotic system, in which even a minuscule action could have an enormous effect.

But two additional fatalities—and civilians, at that—could scarcely have changed the course of the war, even in a chaotic system. Thirty thousand civilians had been killed in the Blitz and nine thousand in the V-1 and V-2 attacks, and fifty million people had died in the war.

And you know he didn't lose the war, Polly thought. And historians have been traveling to the past for more than forty years. If they'd been capable of altering events, they'd have done it long before this. Mr. Dunworthy had been in the Blitz and the French Revolution and even the Black Death, and his historians had observed wars and coronations and coups all across history, and there was no record of any of them even causing a discrepancy, let alone changing the course of history.

Which meant that in spite of appearances, the five fatalities at Padgett's Department Store weren't a discrepancy either. Marjorie must have misunderstood what the nurses said. She'd admitted she'd only overheard part of their conversation. Perhaps the nurses had been talking about the victims from another incident. Marylebone had been hit last night, too, and Wigmore Street. Polly knew from experience that ambulances sometimes transported victims to hospital from more than one incident. And that people one thought had been killed sometimes turned up alive.

But if she told Mike about having thought the theater troupe was dead, he'd demand to know why she hadn't known St. George's would be destroyed and conclude that was a discrepancy as well. Which meant she needed to keep him from finding out about the five casualties at Padgett's till she'd had a chance to determine if there actually were that many.

Thank goodness he wasn't here when Marjorie came, she thought. You should be glad they're late.

And thank goodness her supervisor had taken Marjorie back to hospital, though it meant Polly hadn't had a chance to ask her what exactly the nurse had said. Polly had offered to take Marjorie there herself so she could ask the hospital staff about the fatalities, but Miss Snelgrove had insisted on going, "So I can give those nurses a piece of my mind. What were they thinking? And what were you thinking?" she scolded Marjorie. "Coming here when you should be in bed?"

"I'm sorry," Marjorie had said contritely. "When I heard Padgett's had been hit, I'm afraid I panicked and jumped to conclusions."

Like Mike did when he saw the mannequins in front of Padgett's, Polly thought. Like I did when I found out Eileen's drop in Backbury didn't open. And like I'm doing now. There's a logical explanation for why Marjorie heard the nurses say there were five fatalities instead of three, and for why no one's come to get us. It doesn't necessarily mean Oxford's been destroyed. Research might have got the date the quarantine ended wrong and not arrived at the manor till after Eileen had left for London to find me. And the fact that Mike and Eileen aren't back yet doesn't necessarily mean something's happened to them. They might simply have had to wait till Theodore's mother returned from her shift at the aeroplane factory. Or they might have decided to go on to Fleet Street to collect Mike's things.

They'll be here any moment, she told herself. Stop fretting over things you can't do anything about, and do something useful.

She wrote out a list of the times and locations of the upcoming week's raids for Mike and Merope—correction, Eileen—and then tried to think of other historians who might be here besides Gerald Phipps. Mike had said there was an historian here from some time in October to eighteenth December. What had happened during that period that an historian might have come to observe? Nearly all the war activity had been in Europe—Italy had invaded Greece, and the RAF had bombed the Italian fleet. What had happened here?

Coventry. But it couldn't be that. It hadn't been hit till November fourteenth, and an historian wouldn't need an entire fortnight to get there.

The war in the North Atlantic? Several important convoys had been sunk during that period, but being on a destroyer had to be a ten. And if Mr. Dunworthy was canceling assignments that were too dangerous . . .

But anywhere in the autumn of 1940 was dangerous, and he'd obviously approved something. The intelligence war? No, that hadn't really geared up till later in the war, with the Fortitude and V-1 and V-2 rocket disinformation campaigns. Ultra had begun earlier, but it was not only a ten, it had to be a divergence point. If the Germans had found out their Enigma codes had been cracked, it clearly would have affected the outcome of the war.

Polly looked over at the lifts. The center one was stopping on third. They're here—finally, she thought, but it was only Miss Snelgrove, shaking her head over the negligence of Marjorie's nurses. "Disgraceful! I shouldn't be surprised if she had a relapse with all her running about," she fumed. "What are you doing here, Miss Sebastian? Why aren't you on your lunch break?"

Because I don't want to miss Mike and Eileen like I missed Eileen when I went to Backbury, but she couldn't say that. "I was waiting till you got back, in case we had a rush."

"Well, take it now," Miss Snelgrove said.

Polly nodded and, when Miss Snelgrove went into the stockroom to take off her coat and hat, told Doreen to send word to her immediately if anyone came in asking for her.

"Like the airman you met last night?"

Who? Polly thought, and then remembered that was the excuse she'd given Doreen for needing to know the names of airfields. "Yes," she said, "or my cousin who's coming to London, or anyone."

"I promise I'll send the lift boy to fetch you the moment anyone comes. Now, go."

Polly went, running downstairs first to look up and down Oxford Street and see if Mike and Eileen were coming, and then going up to ask the shop assistants in the lunchroom about airfields. By the end of her break, she had half a dozen names that began with the correct letters and/or had two words in their names.

She ran back down to third. "Did anyone ask for me?" she asked Doreen, even though they obviously hadn't come.

"Yes," Doreen said. "Not five minutes after you left."

"But I told you to send word to me!"

"I couldn't. Miss Snelgrove was watching me the entire time."

I knew I shouldn't have left, Polly thought. This is exactly like Backbury.

"You needn't worry, she hasn't gone," Doreen said. "I told her you were on lunch break, and she said she had other shopping to do and she'd—"

"She? Only one person? Not a man and a girl?"

"Only one, and definitely not a girl. Forty if she was a day, graying hair in a bun, rather scraggy-looking—"

Miss Laburnum. "Did she say what she was shopping for?" Polly asked.

"Yes," Doreen said. "Beach sandals."

Of course.

"I sent her up to Shoes. I told her it was likely too late in the season for us to carry them, but she was determined to go see. I'll watch your counter if you want to go—oh, here she is," she said as the lift opened.

Miss Laburnum emerged, carrying an enormous carpetbag. "I went to see Mrs. Wyvern and obtained the coats," she said, setting the carpetbag on Polly's counter, "and I thought I'd bring them along to you."

"Oh, you needn't have—"

"It was no bother. I spoke to Mrs. Rickett, and she said yes, your cousin could share your room. I also went to see Miss Harding about the room for your Dunkirk friend. Unfortunately, she'd already let it, to an elderly gentleman whose house in Chelsea was bombed. Dreadful thing. His wife and daughter were both killed." She clucked sympathetically. "But Mrs. Leary has a room to let. A second-floor back. Ten shillings the week with board."

"Is she in Box Lane as well?" Polly asked, wondering what excuse she could give after Miss Laburnum had gone to all this trouble if it was in a street on Mr. Dunworthy's forbidden list.

"No, she's just round the corner. In Beresford Court."

Thank goodness. Beresford Court wasn't on the list either.

"Number nine," Miss Laburnum said. "She promised me she won't let it to anyone else till your friend's seen it. It should do very nicely. Mrs. Leary is an excellent cook," she added with a sigh and opened the carpetbag.

Polly caught a glimpse of bright green inside. Oh, no, she thought. It hadn't even occurred to her when she'd asked Miss Laburnum about the coats that she might—

"I hoped to get a wool overcoat for your gentleman friend," Miss Laburnum said, pulling out a tan raincoat, "but this Burberry was all they had. There were scarcely any ladies' coats either. Mrs. Wyvern says more and more people are making do with last year's coats, and I fear the situation will only grow worse. The government's talking of rationing clothing next—" She stopped at the expression on Polly's face. "I know it's not very warm—"

"No, it's just what he needs. There's been so much rain this autumn," Polly said, but her eyes were on the carpetbag. She braced herself as Miss Laburnum reached in again.

"That's why I got your cousin this," she said, pulling out a bright green umbrella. "It's a frightful color, I know, and it doesn't match the black coat I obtained for her, but it was the only one without any broken spokes. And if it's too gaudy for her, I thought we might be able to use it in The Admirable Crichton. The green would show up well onstage."

Or in a crowd, Polly thought.

"It's lovely, I mean, I know my cousin won't think it too bright, and I'm certain she'll lend it to us for the play," she said, chattering in her relief.

Miss Laburnum laid the umbrella on the counter and pulled the black coat out of the carpetbag, then a black felt hat. "They hadn't any black gloves, so I brought along a pair of my own. Two of the fingers are mended, but there's still wear in them." She handed them to Polly. "Mrs. Wyvern said to tell you that if any of Padgett's employees are in a similar situation to send them to her and she'll see they get coats as well." She snapped the bag neatly shut. "Now, do you know if Townsend Brothers sells plimsolls and where I might find them?"

"Plimsolls?" Polly said. "You mean canvas tennis shoes?"

"Yes, I thought they might work instead of beach sandals. The sailors on board ship might have been wearing them, you see, when it sank. I asked in your shoe department, but they hadn't any. Sir Godfrey simply doesn't realize how filthy the station floors are—chewing gum and cigarette ends and who knows what else. Two nights ago, I saw a man"—she leaned across the counter to whisper—"spitting. I quite understand that Sir Godfrey has more pressing things on his mind, but—"

"We may have some in the games department," Polly said, cutting her off in midflow. "It's on fifth. And if we're out of plimsolls," which Polly was almost certain they would be, with rubber needed for the war effort, "you mustn't worry. We'll think of something else."

"Of course you will." Miss Laburnum patted her arm. "You're such a clever girl."

Polly escorted her over to the lift and helped her into it. "Fifth," she said to the lift boy, and to Miss Laburnum, "Thank you ever so much. It was terribly kind of you to do all this for us."

"Nonsense," Miss Laburnum said briskly. "In difficult times like these, we must do all we can to help each other. Will you be at rehearsal tonight?" she asked as the lift boy pulled the door across.

"Yes," Polly said, "as soon as I get my cousin settled in."

If she and Mike are back by then, she added silently as she went back to her counter, but she felt certain now they would be.

You were worried over nothing, she thought, picking up the umbrella and looking ruefully at it. And it will be the same thing with Mike and Eileen. Nothing's happened to them. There weren't any daytime raids today. Their train's been delayed, that's all, like yours was this morning, and when they get here, you'll tell Eileen the airfield names you've collected, and she'll say, "That's the one," and we'll ask Gerald where his drop is and go home, and Mike will go off to Pearl Harbor, Eileen will go off to VE-Day, and you can write up your observations of "Life in the Blitz" and go back to fending off the advances of a seventeen-year-old boy.

And in the meantime, she'd best tidy up her counter so she wouldn't have to stay late tonight. She gathered up the umbrella, the Burberry, and Eileen's coat and put them in the stockroom and then put the stockings her last customer had been looking at back in their box. She turned to put the box on the shelf.

And heard the air-raid siren begin its unmistakable up-and-down warble.

In all our long history we have never seen a greater day than this. Everyone, man or woman, has done their best.

winston churchill,

_VE-Day, 8 May 1945

London—7 May 1945

"douglas, the door's closing!" paige shouted

from the platform.

"Hurry!" Reardon urged. "The train will leave—"

"I know," she said, attempting to squeeze past the two Home Guards who were still singing "It's a Long Way to Tipperary." And forming a solid wall. She tried to go around, but dozens of people were trying to board the car and pushing her back away from the door.

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All Clear 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 116 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What if this book had an editor who knew how to wield a red pencil? What if someone had actually bothered to check how many times the phrase "what if" began a sentence in this book? What if the plot wasn't sidetracked by ENDLESS worrying about "what ifs" by its principal characters? What if the story focused on what the characters actually did, rather than their incessant "what if" questioning? What if the author spent more time on the interesting details of life under the Blitz, or better fleshed out what was happening back in the future? Then, the book may have been worth reading...
harstan More than 1 year ago
The twenty-first century historians (Polly Churchill, Merope Ward, and Michael Ward) remain stuck in England during the Nazi Blitz of the country. After being separated for a time (see Blackout), they reunite in London. However, their effort to find a way to tell their future associates at Oxford in 2060 about their predicament remains impossible. They also know time is running out before Polly's presence causes a time paradox having been to this era once before. Their fears over the Polly quandary also have them afraid they may have already changed 1940, which will have ripple effects into their time and beyond. The sequel to Blackout is a fantastic time travel thriller as the trio struggles with the notions that ironically time is running out on them and they may have caused a change in the future. The story line is fast-paced, but the previous tale must be read first to grasp the nuances of All Clear. Fans will relish this strong tale as the trapped threesome in 1940 is unaware that their colleagues back in 2060 are working a time correction to insure All Quiet on the Western Front. Harriet Klausner
Jaie22 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I hated, hated, hated to finish this book. I felt like I knew and loved all the characters, understood how they felt about their misplacement in time, but most of all I knew and loved their London. I finished this novel about a month ago, and I miss it. If I can find my copy of Blackout, I might start reading the duo again. I would be thrilled if Willis gave us some short stories set "in" this book or following it as [no spoilers] lives into "the future". The Beatles! I'd love to know how [no spoilers] would react to the Beatles. The "invention" of home computers! There's so much to explore.But honestly, with this series I am officially a HUGE FAN of Connie Willis and will read whatever she decides to write.
TomVeal on LibraryThing 5 months ago
In Victorian days, Blackout and All Clear would have been labeled as a single novel in multiple volumes. The modern publishing industry is less forthright, so let me reiterate what others have noted: Reading All Clear without having first read its predecessor is exactly like picking up, say, War and Peace, opening to the approximate middle, and starting to read at that point. One can hope that the publisher will put out a one-volume trade paperback next year for the benefit of readers who shy away from the price of two hardbound books.Leaving that complaint aside, Blackout/All Clear joins the author's Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog as a masterpiece of the time travel genre. At the same time, it offers a virtual "social history" of England during the Blitz, with glimpses too of the V-1 and V-2 campaigns, the prelude to D-Day, and the outburst of relief on May 7, 1945, when word came of Nazi Germany's surrender. Connie Willis is almost as good an historian as a novelist, and her decades of Blitz research (previously put to good use in "Jack", "Fire Watch", "The Winds of Marble Arch" and other stories) bears abundant fruit here.Time travel is necessarily a paradoxical concept, which often confuses the writer as thoroughly as the reader. One of the great virtues of this book is that the story line is almost entirely lucid. My only major caveat is that (having given some warning via repeated references to Agatha Christie) the author injects one huge and unfair red herring. To save other readers unnecessary puzzlement (I don't think this qualifies as a "spoiler"), let me note that "Douglas" was a make of British motorcycle and that the name has no other significance in the novel. If you think, as I did for many, many pages, that it's the key to the workings of the space-time continuum, you're wrong.Aside from an exciting story and historical insight, Blackout/All Clear offers a definite moral, one that emerges well before the author states it openly: "To do something for someone or something you loved - England or Shakespeare or a dog or the Hodbins or history - wasn't a sacrifice at all. Even if it cost you your freedom, your life, your youth." That is the spirit in which the English people approached the gravest challenge in their island's history. It is a spirit that we can use today.
Magatha on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Beautiful, huge, thrilling, compassionate. And a damn good historical perspective of life in wartime.God, I loved this book. Do read Blackout first, and don't worry about feeling confused - everyone's feeling confused, all the characters, everyone.You don't have to read Willis's other time travel novels first, although if you've read Doomsday Book, there will be an especially poignant resonance for you.
ijustgetbored on LibraryThing 5 months ago
All Clear finishes the story begun in Blackout. Once again, we're in Willis' world of the Oxford Time-Travelling Historians, and this time, we're in the middle of London during the Blitz. Willis is hard to pin down as a writer. This is not what you'd call hard-core science fiction, nor is it precisely historical fiction; it's her own unique blend of the two, and it plays out quite satisfactorily. You have her crew of "historians" from the Oxford of 2060 being dropped into the past to conduct historical research (and hopefully not percipitate historical mayhem by affecting even the most minor of events), and you have Willis' unbelievably keen eye for the most minute of historical detail describing the Blitz to you as if it were happening this very moment. The science fiction angle of time travel is a comfortable enough trope that people who don't consider themselves big science fiction fans will nonetheless be able to read and enjoy this novel; you don't have to be heavily invested in the genre and all its conventions to enjoy this novel. There's jargon associated with the sci-fi angle, but it's never overwhelming, and it's something the reader can easily pick up on. As for the historical fiction angle, Willis doesn't fall into any of the traps of that genre, either: no romantacizing the past, no rose-colored glasses, no wasn't-everything-so-much-more-innocent-then? The Blitz is there in all its gritty detail, and I must stress again how much research Willis must have done to write this novel, because the amount of historical information is simply astounding (at times, almost overwhelming).The characters-- one wouldn't call them endearing (except for, perhaps, the continually mischief-causing orphans Alf and Binnie), one would call them human, very human. And that's what makes them so very believable. They may populate a sci-fi novel, but they're utterably relatable. Each one has a role he or she sees him or herself fit to play, responsibilities he or she feels must be undertaken, obligations to shoulder: they feel all of this in day-to-day life as well as in their duty not to alter history by their actions.One thing to address about this novel is that it is a sequel. What if you haven't read Blackout? Well, you can still read this. You will find that the text makes reference to events that happened in the previous novel, but these are usually contextualized, so you can follow along pretty well. You may be confused for the first 30 or 40 pages, when it will seem as if a lot of characters and situations are thrown at you all at once, but this confusion will clear as the characters (who are all well-developed; Willis doesn't depend on the previous novel to have done all of the character developement already) become familiar to you. One thing that might possibly be somewhat confusing if you've never read any of Willis' Time-Travelling novels is the language surrounding the time travel itself: "drops," "the net," "the continuum." As I said before, this is not dense sci-fi, so you can pick up on these, too, but it would make for a more comfortable read if you had at least some familiarity with these terms, if not from the novel preceding this one, then from one of Willis' other novels about the Oxford Time-Travellers (any one would do-- for a light introduction, I suggest To Say Nothing of the Dog).Willis pulls off a real epic here. Rich in detail, rich in mining the questions of what weighs on a person's conscience, rich in bringing the past to life, All Clear is a captivating read that will bring both the past and the future to life for you.
clark.hallman on LibraryThing 5 months ago
In All Clear, Connie Willis concludes the wonderful work of science/historical fiction that she began in Blackout. Michael Davies, Merope Ward and Polly Churchill (history Students at Oxford) travel separately back in time from the year 2060 to London England during World War II and become trapped due to some unknown problem with the time travel process. Their struggles to support themselves, find each other, and try to find a way back home force them and the reader to experience life in war-torn London during the brutal air attacks by the Nazi regime. Like Blackout, All Clear provides an amazingly detailed description of the death, destruction and terror that the people of London endured, and the courage and fortitude they exhibited, during those very threatening times. The story is very detailed and complicated and reveals many time-travel advantages as well as issues/paradoxes, which I believe Willis handled in a very satisfying manner. It also provides a very human portrait of the historical times and the experiences of the characters. In addition, it provides a truly incredible emotional journey for the reader, including excitement, action, fear, joy, anticipation, disappointment, shock, and more. I eagerly read All Clear immediately after I finished Blackout, and reading them in that manner helped maintain the continuity of the reading experience. Both volumes are lengthy, thus they require a substantial commitment from the reader. However, I thoroughly enjoyed all 1,168 pages of this story. I highly recommend both Blackout and All Clear to anyone, especially those interested in time travel and WWII. (see also my review of Blackout on LibraryThing)
karieh on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I am crossing my fingers that ¿All Clear¿ is not the last book Connie Willis writes about the Oxford time travelers. ¿The Doomsday Book¿ is one of my all-time favorite books¿and when I found out about ¿Blackout¿ and ¿All Clear¿ ¿ I was simply thrilled.However, because I am such a fan of Mr. Dunworthy and of the parallel time streams that made ¿Doomsday¿ so compelling ¿ it was tough for me to stay stranded in World War II with the main characters of ¿All Clear¿ while having no idea what was going on in the future. (I understand that put me in the same situation as they - but hey, I¿m greedy.)And yet, I slowly grew to realize as Mike, Eileen and Polly did, that in World War II, the heroes weren¿t only the ones we¿ve read about in history books. The winning of that war depending on so many small things ¿ so many heroic actions of people fighting for their lives not on the field of battle ¿ but in their homes and in the streets.¿¿there¿d been a story about an old woman being dug out of the wreckage of what had been her house and the rescue crew asking her if her husband was under there with her. ¿No, the bloody coward¿s at the front!¿ she¿d said indignantly. He¿d laughed when he read it, but now he wasn¿t so sure it had been a joke. Maybe England was the front, and the real heroes were the Londoners sitting in those tube stations night after night, waiting to be blown to smithereens. And Fordham, lying there in the hospital in traction. And everyone on this train, waiting patiently for it to begin moving again, not giving way to panic of the impulse to call Hitler and surrender just to get it over with. He was going to have to rethink the whole concept of heroism when he got back to Oxford.¿And maybe, in a way, that is the harder fight. When on the battlefield, one is prepared to fight; one has (hopefully) been given the tools and support to fight. If the battle comes unexpectedly to a civilian, it¿s a completely different and terrifying situation.There is a sermon that a minister delivers at a funeral that really touched me. ¿We join the Home Guard and the ATS and Civil Defence, but we cannot know whether the scrap metal we collect, the letter we write to a soldier, the vegetables we grow, will turn out in the end to have helped win the war or not. We act in faith. But the vital thing is that we act. We do not rely on hope alone, though hope is our bulwark, our light through the dark days and darker nights. We also work, and fight, and endure, and it does not matter whether the part we play is large or small.¿I think the heart of this book is lovely ¿ the idea of living the history that was unwritten ¿ the history of the everyday people who will never be mentioned in any books.But in the end, I read and liked this book because it was a book about time travel, and interesting characters, and Mr. Dunworthy¿and the ¿what if¿ scenarios that I can¿t get enough of.And that is why my fingers are crossed that the net will open again and more travelers from Oxford in 2060 will step through.
burnit99 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
The second half of the story Connie Willis began with "Blackout", in which time-traveling historians from Oxford in 2060 have become trapped for some reason in England during the years of the German V-1 and V-2 bombings. For most of the book's length, I was frustrated by the same things that afflicted the first book: a seemingly interminable series of attempts by the historians to find a working drop or a retrieval team, while trying to stay alive and not affect the course of WWII history. Willis did an admirable job of portraying the stoic determination of the British people during these dark times, but it seemed as if she wanted to get in absolutely everything she researched. My impression throughout the book was that she was a victim of ineffectual editing, and that two books of 600 pages or so could have easily been condensed by half. But the book's conclusion totally threw me. In a short space, it all made sense, everything became connected, and the various characters resonated with the quiet heroism they had been observing while they were trapped in time. There were segments that brought me to tears. I still don't know if these two books were longer than they had to be. But the resolution was perfect. Just as when Britain made it through to V-E Day, the story is worth the long hard slog it took to get there.
bell7 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
The second half of the story begun in Blackout continues with Polly, Michael, and Eileen still stuck in London in 1940. As the Blitz continues, Polly and Michael start wondering if they've been changing events, something that they were taught historians couldn't do without endangering the space-time continuum. But what else might be keeping them from getting back to their own time?Every time I sat down with this book I had to make sure that I had a good hour so I could get immersed in it, turning pages to find out more. Though the existence of time travel pegs this book as science fiction, most of the book takes place during the Blitz in 1940-41, highlighting both the events and place of London during the Blitz. As I told my sister, it's not the sort of book you can multitask with because it's not told linearly; events from 1944 and 2060 are interspersed with the main story. Polly constantly reminds Eileen - and the reader - this is time travel, so I suppose it's no surprise the order of events get complicated. Despite some repetition, I really enjoyed spending time with these characters, and would read it again in a heartbeat.
readinggeek451 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
A magnificent end to the story begun in Blackout. Polly, Eileen, and Mike are still stuck in London during the Blitz, trying desperately to find a way home and hoping that they have not ruined the time continuum.Beautiful and heartbreaking.
LeeHallison on LibraryThing 5 months ago
All Clear by Connie Willis (2nd half of Blackout)Finished! I enjoyed this immensely - Connie Willis can pull you into a story fast and hard, and she creates characters you can't help but care about. I was swept back into the world of Blackout (note - this is not a sequel to Blackout, it is the second half - you can't read one without the other. Think Tolkien's Lord of the Rings).The two books are about time historians from 2055 who are studying sociological issues (for example, one is studying ordinary heroes) about humans by traveling to the past. This story is about the group looking at World War II, specifically in London. Willis has dabbled in this before in several shorter books, and I was enthralled with St. Paul's cathedral in London - someplace I had to visit when we got the opportunity to go to London this year. (Yeah, it was great to climb up to the top & imagine the firewatch wardens saving it!)This book straddles two genres (historical fiction and time-travel science fiction) and would interest fans of either. However, it doesn't fit exactly into either genre, allowing a larger audience. I think those people who don't like science fiction can enjoy this because the time-travel ideas are simple enough and interesting philosophically. There aren't any huge info-dumps where you are slogging through imaginary theories. People who don't like historical fiction can enjoy this because the historical part is not overwrought kings/queens/romance but instead very interesting details about WWII and ordinary people. The story has multiple plot lines - first there are the separate timelines. Actions in the far future, where the time historians come from, actions in 1940 and actions in 1944. Each chapter is set in one of those times, and each chapter follows a different character's story. It is confusing, but if you relax about the confusion (note, the characters are all confused for much of the book, as well!), you will start to follow what is going on. However, the chapters usually end in a cliffhanger. That annoyed me at first since other plotlines/times/characters followed the cliffhanger - you're anxious about Eileen, then you become worried for Polly, then wondering about Colin, then back to Eileen! It was a bit manipulative, but certainly kept me reading. I did realize that I was able, occasionally, to stop at a cliffhanger (since I wouldn't be finding out for a while) and put the book down to do other things, having the sweet anticipation to bring me back. The historical detail and the well-thought out time travel theory were important strengths of the book. She wove the information in over both books, and I went back to the first book to re-read parts for the joy of seeing how she pulled it together. The combined books are over 1100 pages - yet I plan to reread sometime (without that 8 month hiatus!). I'm also going to re-read her shorter books about this world she created.
picardyrose on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I GOT IT -- hurray!!I really liked it, though maybe not quite as well as "Blackout." I want to reread "All Clear," though. I was really tearing through it.
wortklauberlein on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Dr. Who fans, take note: Not only does this sequel to "Blackout" center on time travel but also it at times is the literary equivalent of all those running-in-halls scenes, where the good Dr. and friends pass the same point over and over and over.The hundreds of pages of "Blackout" only set the stage for the 640 pages of "All Clear." Connie Willis's engaging if a bit whiny characters kept me reading even though Polly's "deadline" angst got tiresome and the plot moved slowly. By the middle of the book, though, the cumulative effect was to mentally experience time folding in and over itself -- a sort of pastry dough of the universe with layer upon layer upon layer. Many of the "reveals" can be guessed long before they occur but the ending was not only surprising but cryptic. I kept flipping back to reread parts and ferret out the clues Willis sprinkled Christie-like in the smallest details.Agatha herself is a minor character and major influence in "All Clear." Having only recently learned she was an archaeologist as well as writer, I was happy to learn another fact about her non-authorial life thanks to Willis.The extent of Willis's research on World War II Englandshows and is incorporated without being in the least pedantic.I hope Willis returns to the Oxford historians again, but maybe in a tighter novel.The cover on this book, incidentally, is stunning.
nbmars on LibraryThing 5 months ago
All Clear is in essence "Part Two" of Willis¿s previous book, Blackout. In my opinion, there is no way All Clear can (or should) stand alone. The titles of the books refer to the status of war alerts in Britain in World War II, but in addition, one could say that All Clear does in fact make ¿all clear¿ the tangled web of stories that make up the two books.In All Clear, the saga continues about the lives of three time travelers from the year 2060: Mike, Eileen, and Polly, all students of history. They have come back to London during World War II to witness three key aspects of the war years: the heroism of ordinary Britons from Dover who helped rescue soldiers from Dunkirk, the evacuation of children from London to the English countryside, and the ways in which ordinary Londoners coped with the ¿Blitz¿ (the sustained bombing of Britain by Nazi Germany between September 6, 1940 and May 10, 1941).The three have been unable to get back to the year 2060 when they were scheduled to return, and are obsessed with the fear that they might have influenced history deleteriously, and that¿s why the ¿doors¿ they must take back to the future won¿t open for them. In the course of trying to get back, as well as trying to survive the bombings of London until they do so [some thirty thousand civilians died in the Blitz!], they learn invaluable lessons on loyalty and love that transcend space and time, and on the real nature of heroism.Mike had been looking for historical ¿heroes¿ but as he came to discover, "maybe England was the front, and the real heroes were the Londoners sitting in those tube stations night after night, waiting to be blown to smithereens.¿And Polly, who wanted to study how Londoners ¿coped,¿ found that, "The day after they¿d watched half their city burn down around their ears, Londoners hadn¿t sat there feeling sorry for themselves. Instead, they¿d set about putting out the fires that were still burning and digging people out of the rubble. They¿d repaired water mains and railway tracks and telephone lines, shown up at their jobs, even if were they worked was no longer there, swept up glass. Gone on.¿But the author, who so cleverly and poignantly brings this everyday heroism to life in these two books, says it best in her epigraph. Her dedication at the beginning of All Clear reads:TO ALL THE ambulance driversfirewatchersair-raid wardensnursescanteen workersairplane spottersrescue workersmathematiciansvicarsvergersshopgirlschorus girlslibrariansdebutantesspinstersfishermenretired sailorsservantsevacueesShakespearean actorsand mystery novelistsWHO WON THE WAR.Polly eventually concludes: "To do something for someone or something you loved ¿ wasn¿t a sacrifice at all. Even if it cost you your freedom, your life, your youth.¿Evaluation: As I started All Clear, I was wondering, why did she need two books to tell this story? But by the time I finished and was wiping away my tears while once again admiring Willis¿s cleverness, I was hoping fans would prevail upon her to write a third!
Keeline on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I adore Connie Willis novels, especially the Time Travel series.These books do not disappoint, especially if the details about the Blitz in London and the heroism of ordinary people in the face of constant bombing is of interest.Willis does her research and knows how to get us to care about people.I recommend all the books in this series. (Note that Doomsday can be read separately and To Say Nothing of the Dog--a favorite of mine--is also very separate so you don't have to read the earlier books to get this two volume novel, Blackout and All Clear)
alexann on LibraryThing 5 months ago
All Clear is a big book. It is actually the second half of the story begun with Blackout. Together they make well over 1000 pages of reading. As other reviewers have said, it would have been a better book had it been edited down and published as one novel rather than two.Three time traveling historians from Oxford become trapped in London during the Blitz. Willis' historical detail is incredible; through her writing we know exactly what it felt like to live every evening in a bomb shelter, and to not know whether your home would still be standing when the "all clear" sounded. In Blackout, the characters were so alike personality-wise that it was confusing. By the end of the second book they were well-defined. All three characters spend most of their time, it seems, racing from one place to another, trying to find a working "net" which will return them to 2060 and the University. This break-neck pace is wearing--but fun to read.By the end, time had shifted so often that the reader hardly knows how old any of the characters are, or when they are! In spite of this, if you like historical fiction, don't be afraid to take on this mammoth work. It reads quickly because the action is so fast, and you do want to know if they are ever rescued!
labfs39 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
In the acknowledgements, the author thanks those who "stood by me with Blackout and All Clear as one book morphed into two". If only those people had stood in the way and convinced her that what she needed was a good editor, not another book! Polly, Mike, and Eileen are time-traveling historians who went to WWII England to study various aspects of the Blitz. But their assignments go wrong, and the three find themselves trapped in the winter of 1940-41. For hundreds of pages, the three search for a way out and try to understand what has gone wrong.All Clear begins exactly where Blackout ended. There is no transition, no recapping, thus making it an impossible book to read without having read Blackout. As a continuation, it works well, continuing the plot and style without interruption. Unfortunately, the protagonists spend the next 250 pages as they did in Blackout: rushing hither and thither blindly looking for a way out. I was reminded of a hamster on a wheel running round and round mindlessly. Fortunately, the second half of All Clear picks up speed and the plot threads come together in a complex and satisfying way. By the end of the book, I was glad that I had persevered. I'm not sure I will reread it anytime soon, but my faith in the author was restored.
Unkletom on LibraryThing 5 months ago
For starters, 'Blackout' and 'All Clear' should be treated as a single book published in two volumes. Both volumes should be read in order and neither should be read as a stand-alone novel. Readers who haven't read both books will not understand the whole story and will not understand the intricacies of the plot. Furthermore, any review (including my own review of 'Blackout') written by someone who hasn't finished both books should be considered incomplete and ill-informed. In some instances reviewers pointed out flaws in 'Blackout' that in 'All Clear' were revealed to be vital elements of the plot.Together, the books present a brilliant homage by Willis to the grit and determination of the English people during the most difficult time in their country's existence. The message that each and every one of the firewatchers, canteen workers, ambulance drivers, shopgirls and even mystery novelists combined their efforts to bring about a victory that would not have otherwise been possible. While not every person was always warm and hospitable during this time, almost all `did their bit'.---'All Clear' picks up the story where 'Blackout' leaves off. Polly, Eileen and Mike are stranded in London at the height of the Blitz. As the plot unfolds it becomes increasingly apparent that their lives and the very outcome of the war may be altered forever. Meanwhile, back in 2060, Colin and Mr. Dunworthy are struggling to come up with a way to bring them home. Through it all, street urchins Alf and Binnie Hodbin are running around terrorizing Londoners, raising suspicions that they are really a secret weapon for the Nazis and generally providing the light-hearted comic relief that Willis, Shakespeare and other great writers have used to soften make the impact of tragic events. Their role in the story is priceless and they are quite likely the most entertaining fictional characters I've read in at least the last decade.While this book does run a little long, it is definitely worth reading, especially if you have read and enjoyed her previous books ('Doomsday Book', 'To Say Nothing of the Dog'). If you haven't and aren't sure you want to invest some much time in these books, check out one of these two to see if you like her stuff.
bragan on LibraryThing 5 months ago
The second half of Willis' two-volume novel about time traveling historians stranded in London during the Blitz. I do kind of wish she'd managed to edit the story down to one volume, as the beginning of this installment drags a bit. The last 200 pages or so are very engrossing, though, and even if I could pick a small nit or two, the story as a whole is satisfying and even rather moving. Definitely worth sticking with through the slower parts.
timothyl33 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
The second half of an epic story about Britain's finest hour and time travel.
drudmann on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Terrific conclusion to Blackout. My one complaint is that the early 1/3 of All Clear spends a lot of time with one of the main characters who is a worrier; after awhile, the worrying and the many "What If" scenarios become tedious.
toomanytoolittle on LibraryThing 5 months ago
A good book, in combination with Blackout, in serious need of some editing.
MusicMom41 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This was the conclusion of Blackout where all the confusing points are explained and become All Clear. It was a satisfying ending and this set is one of my memorable reads for this year. Connie Willis has a way of bringing the reader into the historical context of her stories and letting us ¿experience¿ the event rather than remaining aloof as a reader. In this series she does for Britain's WWII experience what she did for the plague experience in Doomsday Book. She has become one of my favorite authors. Thanks LT for introducing her to me.
Talbin on LibraryThing 5 months ago
All Clear, by Connie Willis, could have been so much better with some judicious editing. I grew sick of Polly covering things up to spare her friends' feelings, and all that worrying - argh. I thought Blackout was better than All Clear - the ending didn't live up to the beginning. As one book, I'd give it 3.5 stars.