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To Say Nothing of the Dog; or, How We Found…

To Say Nothing of the Dog; or, How We Found the Bishop's Bird Stump at… (1998)

by Connie Willis

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Oxford Time Travel series (2)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,6451931,023 (4.18)1 / 601
Recently added byprivate library, apfergus, rcganz, jMitty, christianstuartlee, nottheradio
  1. 162
    Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (amberwitch, Othemts, Patangel)
    amberwitch: A much darker book set in the same universe. This time the timetravel is to the dark middle ages instead of the gay Victorian era
    Othemts: To Say Nothing of the Dog is a more light-hearted time travel adventure which is sort of a sequel to Doomsday Book. Both are excellent, enjoyable novels.
  2. 120
    Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome (Medellia, rakerman, kittycatpurr, wookiebender)
  3. 100
    Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers (sturlington)
    sturlington: Because of all the Peter and Harriet references.
  4. 103
    The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (simon_carr)
    simon_carr: Similar light hearted style and 'book travelling' rather than time travelling but chances are if you like one then you'll like the other.
  5. 50
    Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede (Pagemistress)
  6. 50
    The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (sturlington)
    sturlington: To Say Nothing of the Dog refers to The Moonstone numerous times. It does give away the mystery, so be warned.
  7. 40
    Time and Again by Jack Finney (Kichererbse)
  8. 51
    Scholarly Magics (A College of Magics, A Scholar of Magics) by Caroline Stevermer (nessreader)
    nessreader: College of Magics is a swashbuckling coming of age novel about a Ruritanian princess (who has a perfectly proper English friend, a demure witch with a passion for millinery) Jane, the English friend is the lead in the sequel, Scholar of Magics, which is a closer match for To Say Nothing.. Edwardiana, cream teas, and magic, in books told with a deft wit: that describes both To Say Nothing and Scholar of Magics.… (more)
  9. 20
    Farthing by Jo Walton (sturlington)
    sturlington: Both mashups of classic British mysteries and science fiction.
  10. 31
    Love Among the Chickens by P. G. Wodehouse (gaialover)
  11. 64
    Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (hiredman)
  12. 20
    Job: A Comedy of Justice by Robert A. Heinlein (Kichererbse)
  13. 20
    The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers (Kichererbse)
  14. 21
    What Ho, Automaton! by Chris Dolley (Keeline)
    Keeline: Also a light Victorian mystery/romance with a Wodehouse feel
  15. 10
    My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time by Liz Jensen (isabelx)
    isabelx: Both are very funny time travel stories.
  16. 11
    Corrupting Dr. Nice by John Kessel (nessreader)
    nessreader: Both have a flavour of screwball comedy romance and wilful anachronisms abound while the unromantic lovers sort themselves out. Corrupting Dr Nice reminded me a lot of Preston Sturges' film, The Lady Eve.

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English (190)  French (2)  Spanish (1)  All languages (193)
Showing 1-5 of 190 (next | show all)
What ages would I recommend it too? – Fourteen and up.

Length? – A couple of days read.

Characters? – Memorable, several characters.

Setting? – Real World, past, present, and future.

Written approximately? – 1998.

Does the story leave questions in the readers mind? – Ready to read more.

Any issues the author (or a more recent publisher) should cover? Perhaps. Some of the dates that are supposed to be in the past/future are fast approaching.

Short storyline: A fun and complicated time travel story full of adventure, history, and finding a way to fix the future without breaking the past.

Notes for the reader: Some repetition. I enjoyed learning the way this author makes time travel work. ( )
  AprilBrown | Feb 25, 2015 |
This is a proper romp, and I enjoyed it greatly.
I was instantly attracted to the title, as it is the sub-title of 'Three Men in a Boat', possibly the funniest book ever written, and a definite favourite of mine. I also love time travel stories, so I had to read this.
Time travelling historians are looking for 'The Bishop's Bird Stump' (what?) and get in a bit of a muddle in 1888. The time travel elements are well worked out, and the very complicated cross-plotting is all sorted out satisfactorily by the end. In tone it rather reminded me of Jasper Fforde, having a similar calm, yet rather knowing, approach to mad ideas and situations. And the chapter headings are a weel-executed nod to Jerome K Jerome.
My only cavil - and the reason for 3, not 4, stars is that the language is occasionally anachronistic. This may seem harsh, but really there's no excuse - simple use of the OED would correct most of the problems, and as the author has obviously researched the period pretty thoroughly it surprises me that she makes these mistakes. Certainly an English editor should have spotted them. They absolutely scream at me. ( )
  Goldengrove | Jan 27, 2015 |
A delightful romp through Edwardian England which pays an homage to 'Three Men in a Boat', as well as a search for a particularly ugly piece of church furniture.

By far the lightest of the Connie Willis books I have read so far. This is one where you can hope for a happy ending. Enjoy a happy mixture of misunderstandings, romance, time travel and general confusion of time-lagged characters trying to remember which job they're supposed to be sorting out and when. ( )
  JudithProctor | Jan 19, 2015 |
The second book of the Oxford Time Travel Series. The first book, The Doomsday Book, dealt with the Black Death. This one is a comedy of manners, and takes place during WWII, involving the search for some missing artifacts from Coventry Cathedral which was bombed during the war.

Tongue in cheek from the very beginning, poor Ned is sent through time to jumble sales all over England in search of ‘The Bishop’s Bird Stump’ an admitted atrocity of Victorian proportions but still wanted to go into a reconstruction of the cathedral.

But time goes awry nearly from the beginning when a young woman save a cat from drowning, and Ned adopts Cyril the bulldog. So suddenly the problem is finding what has messed up the future, to say nothing of retrieving the cat who is accidentally transported into the future.

Highly recommended! ( )
  majkia | Jan 14, 2015 |
In preparation for the dedication of the rebuilt Coventry Cathedral, Lady Schrapnell has all available historians traveling through time to locate the bishop's bird stump that was never found among the bombed ruins of the original cathedral. When Ned Henry begins to suffer from the effects of so many jumps, the head of the lab sends him to the Victorian era to hide from Lady Schrapnell so he can rest. He just has one assignment to take care of first. Too bad his brain is too scrambled to understand it. Ned meets up with other time travelers with their own assignments, and together they must figure out a way to get events on the proper course and avoid catastrophe.

This fun and fanciful story has some weighty questions at its heart, such as the philosophy of history and the possibility of free will. This is science fiction with cross genre appeal, especially for mystery lovers. There are lots of references to classic mystery authors and their characters, including Wilkie Collins' Moonstone, Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, and Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot. Willis assumes the reader's familiarity with these novels and series, and the dialogue about these novels includes spoilers. The title is taken from one of my favorite books, Three Men in a Boat. Ned also seems to be a fan, and his knowledge of the book will come in handy on his own Thames boat journey. Highly recommended for readers who enjoy time travel, classic mysteries, the Victorian era, and cats. ( )
  cbl_tn | Dec 22, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 190 (next | show all)
To Say Nothing of the Dog is charming. It’s funny and gentle and it has Victorian England and severely time lagged time travelers from the near future freaking out over Victorian England, it’s full of jumble sales and beautiful cathedrals and kittens. This is a complicated funny story about resolving a time paradox, and at the end when all is revealed everything fits together like oiled clockwork. But what makes it worth reading is that it is about history and time and the way they relate to each other. If it’s possible to have a huge effect on the past by doing some tiny thing, it stands to reason that we have a huge effect on the future every time we do anything.
added by Shortride | editTor.com, Jo Walton (Jun 24, 2010)
I have read several stories by Connie Willis which I have enjoyed. However, these have all been short stories or novellas. At longer lengths, based on the three Willis novels I've read, I'm afraid I subscribe to the minority opinion that her work is vastly overrated. While I'm sure To Say Nothing of the Dog will sell well and may even garner Willis another Hugo or Nebula, it is another Willis book which adds to my opinion that she should stick with short fiction and stay away from time travel.
added by Shortride | editSF Site, Steven H. Silver (Feb 15, 1998)
Gleeful fun with a serious edge, set forth in an almost impeccable English accent.
added by Shortride | editKirkus Reviews (Oct 15, 1997)

» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Connie Willisprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Crossley, StevenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dinyer, EricCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"...a harmless, necessary cat"--William Shakespeare
"God is in the details."--Gustave Flaubert
To Robert A. Heinlein

Who, in Have Space Suit, Will Travel,
first introduced me to Jerome K. Jerome's
Three Men in a Boat,
To Say Nothing of the Dog.
First words
There were five of us--Carruthers and the new recruit and myself, and Mr. Spivens and the verger.
She sighed. "It's too bad. 'Placetne, magistra?' he said when he proposed, and then she said, 'Placet'. That's a fancy Oxford don way of saying yes. I had to look it up. I hate it when people use Latin and don't tell you what they mean.
It was actually more of a swoon than a faint. She slumped sedately to the flowered carpet, managing to avoid hitting any of the furniture--no small feat since the room contained a large round rosewood table, a small triangular table with a tintype album on it, a mahogany table with a bouquet of wax flowers under a glass dome on it, a horsehair sofa, a damask loveseat, a Windsor chair, a Morris chair, a Chesterfield chair, several ottomans, a writing desk, a bookcase, a knick-knack cabinet, a whatnot, a firescreen, a harp, an aspidistra, and an elephant's foot.
Plans, intentions, reasons. I could hear Professor Overforce now. "I knew it! This is nothing but an argument for a Grand Design!"

A Grand Design we couldn't see because we were part of it. A Grand Design we only got occasional, fleeting glimpses of. A Grand Design involving the entire course of history and all of time and space that, for some unfathomable reason, chose to work out its designs with cats and croquet mallets and penwipers, to say nothing of the dog. And a hideous piece of Victorian artwork. And us.

"History is character," Professor Peddick had said. And character had certainly played a part in the self-correction--Lizzie Bittner's devotion to her husband and the Colonel's refusal to wear a coat in rainy weather, Verity's fondness for cats and Princess Arjumand's fondness for fish and Hitler's temper and Mrs. Mering's gullibility. And my time-laggedness. If they were all part of the self-correction, what did that do to the notion of free will? Or was free will part of the plan as well?

One of the first symptoms of time-lag is a tendency to maudlin sentimentality, like an Irishman in his cups or a Victorian poet cold-sober.
It is a temporal universal that people never appreciate their own time, especially transportation.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Time-travel researcher Ned Henry shuttles back and forth between the 21st century and the 1940s in order to correct an incongruity brought forward from the past.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0553575384, Mass Market Paperback)

To Say Nothing of the Dog is a science-fiction fantasy in the guise of an old-fashioned Victorian novel, complete with epigraphs, brief outlines, and a rather ugly boxer in three-quarters profile at the start of each chapter. Or is it a Victorian novel in the guise of a time-traveling tale, or a highly comic romp, or a great, allusive literary game, complete with spry references to Dorothy L. Sayers, Wilkie Collins, and Arthur Conan Doyle? Its title is the subtitle of Jerome K. Jerome's singular, and hilarious, Three Men in a Boat. In one scene the hero, Ned Henry, and his friends come upon Jerome, two men, and the dog Montmorency in--you guessed it--a boat. Jerome will later immortalize Ned's fumbling. (Or, more accurately, Jerome will earlier immortalize Ned's fumbling, because Ned is from the 21st century and Jerome from the 19th.)

What Connie Willis soon makes clear is that genre can go to the dogs. To Say Nothing of the Dog is a fine, and fun, romance--an amused examination of conceptions and misconceptions about other eras, other people. When we first meet Ned, in 1940, he and five other time jumpers are searching bombed-out Coventry Cathedral for the bishop's bird stump, an object about which neither he nor the reader will be clear for hundreds of pages. All he knows is that if they don't find it, the powerful Lady Schrapnell will keep sending them back in time, again and again and again. Once he's been whisked through the rather quaint Net back to the Oxford future, Ned is in a state of super time-lag. (Willis is happily unconcerned with futuristic vraisemblance, though Ned makes some obligatory references to "vids," "interactives," and "headrigs.") The only way Ned can get the necessary two weeks' R and R is to perform one more drop and recuperate in the past, away from Lady Schrapnell. Once he returns something to someone (he's too exhausted to understand what or to whom) on June 7, 1888, he's free.

Willis is concerned, however, as is her confused character, with getting Victoriana right, and Ned makes a good amateur anthropologist--entering one crowded room, he realizes that "the reason Victorian society was so restricted and repressed was that it was impossible to move without knocking something over." Though he's still not sure what he's supposed to bring back, various of his confederates keep popping back to set him to rights. To Say Nothing of the Dog is a shaggy-dog tale complete with a preternaturally quiet, time-traveling cat, Princess Arjumand, who might well be the cause of some serious temporal incongruities--for even a mouser might change the course of European history. In the end, readers might well be more interested in Ned's romance with a fellow historian than in the bishop's bird stump, and who will not rejoice in their first Net kiss, which lasts 169 years!

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:48:32 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

"Ned henry is badly in need of a rest. He's been shuttling between the 21st century and the 1940's 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 traveller, 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"--P. [4] of cover.… (more)

» see all 7 descriptions

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