I picked up this book after several recommendations from reddit’s r/Fantasy. To Say Nothing of the Dog stands by itself very well, and is fantastically happy and comedic. It was just over 20 hours in audio, and took me a very long time to get through. It felt like a bit of a drag at times, but I think that had more to do with how long it took me to listen to the audiobook, rather than any writing flaws. Overall the book is great fun to listen to, and/or read.
To Say Nothing of the Dog (How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump) by Connie Willis is mostly set in Victorian Era England, with a few exceptions for various different time travel locations. Overall, about 80-90% of the book is probably set in the past during the Victorian Era, with small parts in the present (2050s), and World War 2.
When too many jumps back to 1940 leave 21st century Oxford history student Ned Henry exhausted, a relaxing trip to Victorian England seems the perfect solution. But complexities like recalcitrant rowboats, missing cats, and love at first sight make Ned’s holiday anything but restful – to say nothing of the way hideous pieces of Victorian art can jeopardize the entire course of history.
There are 2 main characters who are thoroughly developed – Ned Henry and Verity Kindle. They’re both time travellers spending their time in Victorian England. There is a large supporting cast, which isn’t overly developed. I found a few of the characters to be more like caricatures, however this was well suited to the comedic elements of the book.
The book focuses on how small moments can have a massive effect on history, and follows Ned and Verity around as they try to fix an “irregularity” which could cause the Nazi’s to win WWII, or possibly tear apart the space-time continuum, that is to say, reality. They’re also simultaneously required to play the part expected of them in Victorian society.
Overall the book has a large number of plot threads which appear to be wholly irrelevant when you first read them, however they do become important later on. Willis does an excellent job of bringing all the events throughout the novel together in the end.
I listened to this audiobook while walking around the streets, and ended up receiving a few weird looks as I randomly started giggling and laughing. The narrator also did a fantastic job.
To Say Nothing of the Dog is described as:
Connie Willis’ Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Doomsday Book uses time travel for a serious look at how people connect with each other. In this Hugo-winning companion to that novel, she offers a completely different kind of time travel adventure: a delightful romantic comedy that pays hilarious homage to Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat.
This is book 2 in the Oxford Time Travel series, but can be read separately from book 1. I’ve been told the tone of book 1 is quite different, but haven’t yet read it myself.
This book is probably best for people who like:
- Time Travel
- Historical fiction
- Sci-fi (it’s pretty light sci-fi though)
- Happy books