Book: To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
Publication date: 1998
Summary: What happens if an item from the Victorian past gets transported to the future? Nothing good to the space-time continuum is the fear in To Say Nothing of the Dog. Bad timing. Because in the present-day (2057, that is), Lady Schrapnell is employing all the historian time-travelers in her quest to rebuild the Coventry Cathedral exactly as it was before being destroyed in World War II. In fact, she has overused the services of our narrator, Ned Henry, to the point that he has developed an advanced case of time-lag and desperately needs a rest.
Killing two birds with one stone, Mr. Dunworthy sends Ned back to Victorian times to handle the space-time continuum problem while putting him out of reach of Lady Schrapnell. Unfortunately, due to the advanced time-lag, Ned isn’t clear what his mission is — only that he finds himself dressed for punting on the Thames and, as luck would have it, in the company of a young man who needs a paying partner to rent a boat. To say nothing of the dog.
Thoughts: To Say Nothing of the Dog is in the same world as Doomsday Book, but it doesn’t read like a sequel. Mr. Dunworthy is a point-of-view character in the first book, but a minor one in this second book. The moods are very different, too. Both books are humorous, but Doomsday Book had a very serious streak, dealing with a modern-day influenza epidemic and the medieval plague at the same time. There are serious issues about time and history in To Say Nothing of the Dog, but they provide an intellectual, rather than emotional, pull on the reader.
The end result, then, is that To Say Nothing of the Dog is pure fun –a romp in Victorian villages along the Thames with festivals and valuable fish and fair maidens who may, or may not, need rescuing. The time travel gives us a quick look at the medieval past, a few dramatic moments during World War II, and a touch of the future Oxford.
Appeal: Like Doomsday Book, this book will appeal to both historical fiction and science fiction fans. There’s a touch of romance, too!
To Say Nothing of the Dog also works as my third book for the What’s in a Name Challenge — the title has ‘ing’ in it. I already got my animal, but it would have worked for that category, too!
And, it’s the first of three books I intend for the Reading England challenge, to read books set in three different counties in England. This will be my book for Oxfordshire.
I’ll link this review at British Isles Friday this week, too.
Reviews: The summary at Things Mean a Lot is more detailed than mine but without spoiling the plot (not easy with this book) and wonderfully describes the philosophical puzzle at the heart of To Say Nothing of the Dog.
Have you read this book? What did you think?