- Mass Market Paperback: 512 pages
- Publisher: Bantam (Dec 1 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0553575384
- ISBN-13: 978-0553575385
- Product Dimensions: 10.6 x 3 x 17.4 cm
- Shipping Weight: 9.1 g
- Average Customer Review: 147 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #50,158 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
To Say Nothing of the Dog Mass Market Paperback – Dec 1 1998
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"The most hilarious book of its kind since John Irving's The Water-Method Man and A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole."
--Des Moines Sunday Register
"An utter delight. Ms. Willis's unique, engaging voice will carry you off to a place where chaos theory makes perfect sense, time travel is a REASONABLE mode of transport, and safeguarding the fate of humanity is a respectable day job."
"Willis effortlessly juggles comedy of manners, chaos theory and a wide range of literary allusions [with a] near flawlessness of plot, character and prose."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"I have long thought that Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men In A Boat is one of the highest points of Inimitable British Humor. I chuckle; I gurgle; I know those three men--to say nothing of the dog. And now I am convinced there was a woman concealed in that boat, too: Connie Willis."
--Laurie R. King
From the Inside Flap
From Connie Willis, winner of multiple Hugo and Nebula Awards, comes a comedic romp through an unpredictable world of mystery, love, and time travel...
Ned Henry is badly in need of a rest. He's been shuttling between the 21st century and the 1940s searching for a Victorian atrocity called the bishop's bird stump. It's part of a project to restore the famed Coventry Cathedral, destroyed in a Nazi air raid over a hundred years earlier.
But then Verity Kindle, a fellow time traveler, inadvertently brings back something from the past. Now Ned must jump back to the Victorian era to help Verity put things right--not only to save the project but to prevent altering history itself.
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Part of the problem is that something keeps historians from being able to get even close to the right time or place. Part of the problem is that he's been doing too many time drops, and he's badly time-lagged, so his vision is blurred, his hearing is impaired, and he's inclined to fall madly in love with the next pretty girl he meets. And part of the problem is that it seems as if somebody, contrary to what everyone "knows" about time travel, has actually managed to bring an object forward in time with them, with incalculable consequences for the space-time continuum. In other words, our hero is in a serious mess, and things just get messier and messier, the harder he tries to fix them.
The characters are all thoroughly batty. We meet characters who are absolutely fanatical about their opinions, but willing to drop all arguments at the drop of a fishing fly, we meet clergymen who attend seances, we meet a family who bought a first-class library as a status symbol, but disapprove of anybody who actually reads books, we meet Jerome K. Jerome, the author of Three Men in a Boat, to say nothing of the dog. The protagonist keeps a running score of how many Victorian cliches the other characters spout. In other words, it's a romp. (So many people had fun reading it that it won Willis the Hugo award for best novel.) It's all good fun, we get to learn a little history on the side, and the Luftwaffe get to bomb Coventry after all. To make things even more fun, right near the end, there's an idea which will make serious bibliophiles stand up and cheer.
This is a light novel, with elements of a romance and a comedy of manners. Ned Henry is suffering from time lag, having been run ragged by Lady Schrapnell, a wealthy heiress who is providing most of the funds to keep the research going. Lady Schrapnell is a stickler for detail in her elaborate reconstruction of the Coventry Cathedral, and insists that the historians provide the Bishop's bird stump, a strikingly ugly work of art that was lost when the Cathedral was bombed in 1940.
The only way Ned can escape from Schrapnell is to go back to before she was born, so he is given a simple courier assignment to make a delivery in the Victorian era, where he can rest up for a few weeks after his task is completed. Unfortunately, Ned is too time-lagged to be able to understand his instructions, so he is left wandering about the 1880s uncertain what he is delivering to whom, and never quite aware of whether he is preserving the proper time line or undermining it. He does know that Tossie, the distant ancestress of Lady Schrapnell whose family home he is a guest in, is supposed to fall in love with her future husband in a few days, but he doesn't know who that is - only that it definitely isn't Cyril, the young gentleman he accidentally introduced to her, who is now wooing her with marked success.
The plot is complex and worked out in great detail - many apparently random details are ultimately brought together in an ending that is almost too clever. The characters, major and minor, are nicely drawn. All in all, thoroughly enjoyable.
On one of Ned's return trips, he runs into Verity Kindle, another time-travelling historian, and is instantly enchanted by her. Verity has a problem, however. She brought back an item through the time-travelling portal, and in doing so, could have changed the course of history forever. Now it's up to Ned and Verity to bring the item back, and straighten out any incongruities that might have resulted from her impulsive move, in order to save the world as we know it.
TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG is a humorous science fiction story, with a Victorian twist. As Ned and Verity spend a lot of their time in the Victorian era, a lot of the conversation centers around Victorian poetry and literature. English Majors will be thrilled to understand the references to some of the poetry and literary works quoted, while other reads will be left shaking their heads in wonder. The satire on the Victorian era is very well done, however, and all readers should be able to appreciate that.
The characterization is superb, which makes up for the slow-moving plot. Ms. Willis' writing style is full of British wit and humor, making this a very funny read. For fans of Ms. Willis' DOOMSDAY BOOK, this might come as a surprise, since TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG doesn't contain the same level of emotional involvement and satisfaction as the aforementioned novel. Still, a fun read if you have the patience.
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