Fire Watch by Connie Willis

18586183Source: Own collection
Format: Hardback
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

I read this as part of The Time Traveller’s Almanac, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer.

Wow. What an excellent story. Written in diary form, this tale is of a student historian who travels from his time (somewhen in the 21st century, I believe) to 1940s London, St Paul’s specifically, during the Blitz. The task seems to be pretty much to survive for three months until he is recalled to return to the future.

What I really appreciated about this story is its message. What a contrast to ‘Vintage Season’, which had people from the future travelling to the ‘present’ for entertainment and pure, disinterested observation. Even going so far as to pretty much demean and negate the concerns of the locals. Here we have someone from the future who really cares about the people around him, about the integrity of St Paul’s. He befriends people, buries a cat, and gets really mad with his professor when he returns to the future and gets quizzed on a string of facts.

By travelling to the past he learns that history isn’t just about facts and figures, but real lives. Lives and issues that mattered back then. Something we all, living today, could do well to remember. The past is always more complex than just facts and figures. The past is the people, and the people lived in their time with their own perspectives on life. It behoves us to remember that when we view the past, that we cannot place OUR perspectives on life onto those who lived in the past.

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