Saturday, August 6, 2011

All Clear Read-along: Week 1 (Pages 3-123)

Welcome to the first discussion post for the read-along of All Clear by Connie Willis, which I’m co-hosting with Carrie at Books and Movies. How are you all doing so far? I just finished read the first 120 pages, which is why I’m posting this discussion post a bit late.

Although I’d been warned that I’d want to read All Clear as soon as I finished Blackout, I didn’t realize just how much these two books are actually one story that’s been chopped in half. Neither book stands on its own: All Clear just continues where Blackout left off. (For that reason I’ve decided to review them together, at the end of this read-along.)

Note that there are spoilers in the rest of this post!

As I said to Carrie during the last Blackout discussion, I’ve been tempted to plot out who is where when since it’s now clear that this is significant to the plot. (We already knew that Polly has a cut-off date, and it now seems that Eileen has one too.) I had also suggested that Douglas, the historian in the VE-Day section, is Polly (which made sense to me since it seemed unlikely that Willis would be introducing us to another historian who’d been there on that day), but I find it curious that Polly hadn’t thought about the fact that Eileen also has a cut-off date until we find out about it via Douglas in 1945 (but maybe that was just to confuse us?).

Speaking of dual identities, I originally thought that Flight Officer Lang, whom Mary picks up in Biggin Hill, might be Gerald Phipps, but in the end I don’t think he’s a historian. But where does he know Mary from? (And who the heck is Mary anyway?) Then I thought that maybe Ernest is Gerald Phipps, but he’s in the wrong place at the wrong time (Ernest is in Kent in 1944 and they are looking for Gerald in 1940), so maybe not. I find Ernest’s story is the most confusing—and I have no guesses so far as to what he’s up to!

I’m glad to see I wasn’t wrong about the Hodbins making another appearance in the story—and we obviously haven’t seen the last of them yet, though I have no idea what’s going on with them either.

Finally, I’m still undecided as to whether the historians have actually changed history (and whether Dunsworthy already knew about it). Polly’s theory about why the drops were rescheduled is an intriguing one. What do you guys think? I guess we might find something out soon, as the next chapter takes us forward to 2060 again (finally!).

Please share your thoughts in the comments! Keep in mind that I haven’t read past page 123, so please don’t comment on the book beyond that point.

The next two discussion posts will appear on Carrie’s blog at Books and Movies. I will post the final discussion post here on August 27.


  1. I can't tell you how excited I am that the next chapter is set in 2060 again - I want to know what's going on with Mr. Dunworthy and the lab!

    I was thinking you were right about Douglas being Polly, but am also confused as to why she hasn't mentioned Eileen/Merope also having a deadline, in that case.

    Ernest's storyline is an interesting one, as the British really did set up inflatable tanks and print false newspaper reports about fictitious American troop movements in the weeks leading up to D-Day - trying to throw the Germans off as to where the invasion would take place.

    I don't think Flight Officer Lang is Phipps - if he was, I think Mary would have recognized him. Plus, he sounds like a personable fellow, and from all descriptions, it sounds like Phipps is a pompous jerk. I wish I understood what Mary's significance to the story was!

    And why haven't we heard more about the mysterious historian who went through in the last chapter of Blackout? I still think it's Colin, but could be completely wrong! :)

  2. Your post reminds me of how much fun I had reading this book! I can't wait to see what you think of Ernest's storyline in the end.

  3. I've never tried a read along ... maybe I should embark on one since it sounds like an incredible experience for both you and Carrie. Just reading your exchange is making me excited to learn more.

  4. Alyce - now you have me curious!

    Aisle B - it has been a lot of fun. :)

  5. Carrie, I forgot to mention that, but I totally agree that Lang can't be Phipps because he's too nice! The Ernest story is quite something; I had no idea they did that, although I figured it must be real if it's in this book -- I'm trusting Willis to get the history right. I must admit that I read the next chapter right after I posted this, just to see what the heck was going on in 2060!

    Alyce, I agree with Carrie: I'm really curious now too!

    PK (Aisle B), I'd love to do a read-along with you! (We must be able to find a book that we both want to read??) It's been a really fun experience -- and Carrie and I are already planning our next one!

  6. In my opinion, this should have been called Blackout 2. It was definitely a continuation … you couldn't read them separately.

    I actually finished All Clear. All your questions will be answered … and I think you'll be pretty happy with how things resolve. I was. I'm not going to comment any more because I don't want to ruin things for you.

    However, when you finally get done, I just want to clarify something that happens at the very very end. Happy reading!