Review of “All Clear” by Connie Willis

All Clear is in essence “Part Two” of Willis’s previous book, Blackout (see my review, here). 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 makes 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.”

Children in the East End of London, made homeless by the Blitz

Children in the East End of London, made homeless by the Blitz

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:


ambulance drivers
air-raid wardens
canteen workers
airplane spotters
rescue workers
chorus girls
retired sailors
Shakespearean actors
and mystery novelists


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!

Rating: 4/5

Published by Spectra, 2010

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13 Responses to Review of “All Clear” by Connie Willis

  1. Julie P. says:

    What an interesting concept! I’m extremely curious!

  2. Sandy says:

    I’m really not living life to the fullest right now, not having read her, I think. OK, Doomsday is coming at some point. Stop it Jill! You will have 2011 planned out for me before you know it!

  3. zibilee says:

    I love, love, love Willis and her writing, and this is one of the few that I don’t own yet. I find her stories so easy to get caught up in, and she has this wonderful gift for character creation that I marvel at. So glad that you loved this one, as it is going on my list, right now!!

  4. marthalama says:

    Thank you for letting me know about these books. I had never heard of them and now I must read them. I will be adding them to my 2011 list today.

  5. Staci says:

    This one has me very curious, especially the time travel aspect of it!!

  6. Nymeth says:

    I think I’m going to LOVE both this and Blackout.

  7. Margot says:

    This is not my normal genre but I love the concept of this book.

  8. Sarah says:

    I LOVED both these books. I think they were split on account of it being one book over 1400 pages long… but I don’t know that for sure. I devoured both of these. 😀 And I reviewed All Clear here if you’re interested in reading my review!

    I loved that opening with the epigraph. Guh, I just loved so much about these two books. And now I’m on a Connie Willis kick, ha.

  9. Jenny says:

    Okay, okay, The Domesday Book wasn’t any good for me but obviously these two books are going to be much better Willis reading experiences for me. I’m such a sucker for London Blitz stories, I got tears in my eyes just reading those tiny little excerpts.

  10. Stephanie says:

    I read Blackout last Fall and loved it. All Clear is on my shelf, but I haven’t had time to read it. Now you have me even more excited about it!

  11. I’m going to have to read these books!

    I’ve linked to your review on War Through the Generations.

  12. Pingback: Book Review: #5 – All Clear by Connie Willis « Let's eat, Grandpa! Let's eat Grandpa! (Punctuation saves lives.)

  13. Pingback: All clear | Susan Hated Literature

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