Set mainly in the September of 1940 as the Blitz was getting into its stride and the Dunkirk evacuations were being undertaken by the valient little ships, this latest tale in Connie Willis's stories about tbhe time travelling Oxford Historians takes us back to the darkest days of British history.

The book follows the tales of Michael Davies, who has managed to get a trip round various places of significance starting with Pearl Harbor on the 7th December 1941 but his plans are suddenly changed and he's told his first stop over will be Dover where he is to observe the locals' response to the Dunkirk evacuations. Also back in this volatile time period are Merope Ward, who is acting as a servant in a house in the country that has accepted a number of London evacuees, and Polly Churchill, who has taken a job as a shop girl to observe the Blitz and its effects on the locals.

But the individuals' problems only mount once they are sent back into the past. With the time devices only able to open outside an area of significance and while no local is around to see it, Michael finds himself miles away from Dover and when he goes exploring he returns to where his gate had opened, he found that an anti acraft battery had been set up right up on top of it, so it would be a while before he is going home from there...

Merope hoped her time as a servant would soon be up but the evacuees managed to catch a seriously contagious disease leaving her stranded after the quarantine had been raised.

Polly, in London during the opening nights of the Blitz, finds that something had affected her time gate - surely not the bomb that had destroyed the surrounding buildings?

Soon all three realise that they won't be getting back to Oxford any time soon and they make their way to London to try and meet up.

Given the setting this is not a particular funny book but even though the situation is grim in general and for our castaway characters in particular, Connie manages to introduce a degree of humour into the situations particularly where the contemps and the travellers are interacting; the travellers barely being able to see why the contemps are being so calm under the threats they are facing, and of course there's always that little problem that time travel always brings up; the past is a different country - they do things differently there. Despite the overal sense of despair that lies behind the story there is a degree of humour and it is in this interaction of the travelling historians and the contemps, especially as the historians begin to see behind the facade of apparent calm and the strange impression the historians make on the locals.

There are a couple of relatively minor gaffes; there is mention made of the Jubilee Underground Line, which would have been impossible to have travelled on back then as it was built for the current queen's 25th Jubilee back in 1977 and the image on the front of the American edition has Allied bombers apparently overflying Saint Paul's - there were some serious mistakes in targetting but none quite that bad...

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