Confession: My two favorite themes in literature are time travel and alternative histories. Somehow, this book has completely escaped my notice until now, despite the fact that it won the Best Novel Hugo Award back in 1993. The story is set in 2054 in Oxford, England. Time travel has been invented, but up until now, people were not allowed to go back to the 14th century because it was considered too dangerous for two reasons. First, it was the era of the Hundred Years' War, and second, it was the era of the Black Death that killed almost half of Europe. However, Kivrin Engle, a young post-grad historian, ends up going back to 1320 to study medieval Oxford for a three week period. Unbeknownst to her, a mistake actually sent her to 1348, the year that the Black Death struck Oxford and the surrounding villages. Meanwhile, the characters in 2054 Oxford find themselves also the victims of a mysterious influenza that strikes most of the people who are tasked with pulling Kivrin back into the present.
The book is a bit long, but I enjoyed it anyways. Be warned, it does get very depressing and rife with gross details of what the Bubonic Plague does to a person before death. I would not recommend for the squeamish or those who are unable to read about death. For me, someone who is fascinated by history, I loved it! It took a while for the book to really get going, but once it did, I thought it was great. The parts that dragged were mostly those that occurred in 2054, and the side story of the American bell-tollers. Still, I'd recommend it to those who are not overly sensitive and like to learn more about medieval history