I stayed up late last night to read almost the last 100 pages of this book to finish it off. Doomsday Book is a very entertaining read, but it started off so SLOW that it took me almost 6 months of reading in fits and starts to get through it. It wasn't until about halfway through the novel that I found myself drawn back into the book with a desire to put off doing other things to finish the novel. This is the only reason I gave it 3/5 stars instead of a higher 4/5 stars rating.
In one sense, Doomsday Book could be described as the cousin of Michael Crichton's well-known thriller Timeline, but with less overt action and a far more introspective and thought-provoking study of human nature and emotion.
A historical researcher named Kivrin is sent back through time from 2048 to the Middle Ages, circa 1320. An influenza epidemic sweeps through "present-day" Oxford, stranding her in the past just as she discovers that an error in the transport has dropped her into 1348, right before the Black Plague had started to kill approximately half the entire population of Europe. The book jumps back and forth between Kivrin's struggles to survive and care for the family who took her into their home, and her colleagues in 2048 who are struggling with their own version of the plague while still trying to figure out how to rescue Kivrin.
Willis has a talent for imbuing her characters with a three-dimensionality and emotionally investing the reader in their lives. The descriptions of the Middle Ages were fantastic, and it was interesting to see not only the range of wealth and poverty that existed even within a single village, but how Kivrin interacted with these people who had never been exposed to almost anything that denizens of the 21st century take for granted. Willis holds up a mirror of human nature to contrast the behaviors and beliefs of present-day people with those of the past, with thought-provoking and sometimes surprising insights about ourselves and others around us.