Sunday, January 8, 2012

To Say Nothing of the Dog

Title: To Say Nothing of the Dog
Author: Connie Willis
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 1998

Recommendation: Funny, delightful, and fast paced. Recommended for those who like to read about time travel and laugh.
Rating: 9/10

Summary: Ned Henry is a historian in 2057 who is travelling back in time in search of the bishop's bird stump lost in an air raid on the Conventry Cathedral in 1940. Having been at it for awhile, he is sent back and rerouted to Victorian England to rest and fix a small incongruity introduced by another historian who brings a cat over to the future. Needless to say, rest is difficult to find in peaceful Victorian England.

Reactions: I don't remember where I first heard of this book. However, it's been sitting in my amazon wish list for a long time until someone at a New Year's party mentioned it to me again, praising the book. I promptly downloaded it to my Kindle and started following the adventures of Ned Henry.

If I had to use on word to describe the novel it would be delightful. It's such a fun, whimsical book with a strong sense of irony that it just keeps tickling the funny bone and I may have not stopped smiling the whole way through.

The story is told from the first person narration of Ned Henry who just keeps getting into one scrape or another in Oxford of 1888 in hopes of repairing a mistake that may change history. The plot moves along a lively pace and kept me reading late at night rooting for the characters to make things right.

The cast of the book is a pretty varied bunch whom Ned meets in the vicinity of Oxford. There's Terence St. Trewes, an Oxford student who invites Ned to share his boat going down the Thames; Cyril the bulldog who accompanies them; Princess Arjumand the cat who is changing history; exceedingly silly owners of the above-mentioned kitty and many others. I enjoyed them all, each one is a foil for common Victorian characters, but at the same time with plenty of individuality to spare.

"God is in the details" is the motto of Ned's employer in 2057 who is doing a cathedral restoration project. And I would say this applies to the book itself that has so many fine touches in it, that I couldn't help, but love it. There are old-fashioned chapter starters that tell you what will happen in the chapter without actually revealing anything. There are numerous references to historical events, figures, literature and quotations that add to the atmosphere and make this time-travelling romp much more fun than others I have read.

It probably helps to know something about the book Three Men In a Boat, to Say Nothing of the Dog by Jerome K. Jerome as there are numerous references to it. But I haven't read it myself, though I rather want to as the aftermath of reading this book. There are also lots of references to Agatha Christie mysteries and a number of other books, so I think everyone will find something they recognize and relate to.

All-in-all, this science fiction comedy seriously exceeded my expectations by being funny, charismatic, having a quick moving plot and plenty of literary references. I would recommend it to anyone with a sense of humor in a heartbeat.


  1. I really should go grab a copy of this. I consistently hear good things and my tiny exposure to Willis' short fiction has me convinced that she is an author I will continue to enjoy.

    Your review is consistent with others I've read that make the pace and the humor of this novel sound just like something I would enjoy.

    1. Do grab a copy of this, I do think this is the type of book you would enjoy. Also, if you have a Kindle, I would be happy to lend it to you.

  2. I haven't succumbed to the e-reader temptation yet, but thanks so much for the offer. I really do appreciate it.