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To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
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To Say Nothing of the Dog (1998)

by Connie Willis

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Oxford Time Travel series (2)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
5,4522431,216 (4.15)1 / 723
  1. 171
    Three Men in a Boat—To Say Nothing of the Dog by Jerome K. Jerome (Medellia, rakerman, kittycatpurr, wookiebender)
  2. 183
    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.
  3. 70
    Time and Again by Jack Finney (Kichererbse)
  4. 104
    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. 41
    Scholarly 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)
  7. 30
    The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers (Kichererbse)
  8. 20
    Farthing by Jo Walton (sturlington)
    sturlington: Both mashups of classic British mysteries and science fiction.
  9. 64
    Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (hiredman)
  10. 21
    Love Among the Chickens by P. G. Wodehouse (gaialover)
  11. 11
    Job: A Comedy of Justice by Robert A. Heinlein (Kichererbse)
  12. 00
    My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time by Liz Jensen (isabelx)
    isabelx: Both are very funny time travel stories.
  13. 11
    What Ho, Automaton! by Chris Dolley (Keeline)
    Keeline: Also a light Victorian mystery/romance with a Wodehouse feel
  14. 01
    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 (240)  French (2)  Spanish (1)  All languages (243)
Showing 1-5 of 240 (next | show all)
To Say Nothing of the Dog is the second book in the Oxford Time Travel series, but both books stand entirely alone, only share a couple characters in common, and are written in very different styles. Enjoyment or dislike of one is probably not a guarantee that one would feel the same about the other. In my case I enjoyed both, but for different reasons. I did like the first book a bit more than this one.

This one has a more traditional type of time-travel story, involving attempts to fix a timeline that has apparently been messed up by accident. A time-traveling historian who has been back in the Victorian Era makes a knee-jerk decision to save a cat from being drowned and this appears to have caused an incongruity in the timeline. Compounding the issue, the historian they send to help fix things is suffering from time lag due to too much recent time travel. He’s barely coherent when he’s given his instructions and is suffering from Difficulty in Distinguishing Sounds, so he ends up in the Victorian Era with no idea what he’s supposed to do.

There’s a lot of humor and the events are much lighter in tone than those in the first book were. I laughed out loud several times. A cat and a dog both play a part in the story and I particularly enjoyed the way they were written. The story is told from the first-person perspective of Ned, the time-lagged historian who’s sent back to help fix the problem. He had a great personality and his way of looking at things often made me laugh. I also liked some of the other characters, whereas others were very annoying in a humorous sort of way.

Aside from the humor, the story itself didn’t always hold my attention as well. I enjoyed it for the most part, but sometimes I lost interest. There are a lot of references to Three Men in a Boat, as well as to old mystery novels and other classic literature. There are also a lot of references to historical events. These parts were often where I started to lose interest. I’m not a history buff and I haven’t read most of the books being referenced, so maybe I would have appreciated those parts more otherwise. It did make me interested in reading Three Men in a Boat someday, though. The story is also a bit too romance-y with lots of pairing off, but that was at least done in a mostly-humorous way.

I have a few more spoilerish comments:
The whole “mystery” of who Mr. C was got tedious to me because it was obvious from the moment the characters were introduced. Tossie kept saying “Baine says this” and “Baine says that”, showing she obviously was paying attention to his words even if she treated him with disdain and argued against what he said. I think this introduction came before the Mr. C concept was introduced, but it was obvious Tossie was going to end up with Baine so I knew he’d have to somehow end up being Mr. C despite his apparently-mismatched letters. As the story progressed, there were also several Princess Bride overtones with Baine saying “as you wish” so often and with her bossing him around.

I still have difficulty with the whole concept of this net that’s supposed to prevent incongruities and go through all this major manipulation to correct them when they occur. The author is essentially writing the net as if it were God, because a non-sentient and non-omniscient entity would have no way of knowing how to use the personality traits of various people throughout a variety of timelines to manipulate them into taking various actions that would correct an incongruity.

The best part of the story was when they brought the kittens back to the future. :)


One more minor spoiler for both Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog:
Mr. Basingame wasn’t so much as mentioned in this book, and it seems like they have a different director now although I’m not entirely clear on their organizational structure. Either way, it appears I’m going to have to spend the rest of my life wondering what ever happened to him! ( )
1 vote YouKneeK | Mar 19, 2019 |
This book revisits a couple of the characters from Willis' Doomsday Book (which I also loved), although this one was a lot funnier and lighter. It takes place in the future in Oxford, when historians travel in time to study history (or, as in this book, to recover hideous Victorian art for the reconstruction of a bombed-out cathedral). Having made too many trips through time recently, Ned Henry is suffering from advanced time lag and is instructed to go back to Victorian England for some rest and relaxation. However, there is a slight chance that the space-time continuum has been damaged, and Ned won't be able to get any rest until he fixes it.

This book was super fun and combined a bunch of genres in a thoroughly enjoyable way. Also, there are kittens. And a long-suffering bulldog. So, so good. ( )
  covertprestige | Feb 24, 2019 |
The blurb on the cover describes this as “hilarious.” I can’t quite agree with that, although it is sometimes very funny. But it doesn’t need to be hilarious; it’s charming and fun throughout. ( )
  brokensandals | Feb 7, 2019 |
Loved it so much - a charming, funny wander through various mystery genres, Oscar Wilde and all the timey-wimey-ness. I will say it made a lot more sense after having read, and loved, The Doomsday Book first. I tried to read this on its own a while ago, and got lost and impatient. So read the books in order, please. ( )
  CatherineBurkeHines | Nov 28, 2018 |
Comedy of time travel? Love story? Yes, and it actually works pretty well. I love this book--I think I have 3 copies. Having said that, I think there are some issues.
First, when Ned Henry is trying to escape from the dreaded nurse who wants him to take two weeks' bed rest, he does a flit across Oxford. I know Oxford reasonably well, and I've also tried to follow where he goes on a map, and I cannot make sense of it. Nor do I believe that he could have done it in the time he is supposed to. Maybe the Oxford of 2050 is different geographically to the Oxford of 2018.
Second, she got the period between the bombing of Coventry and the attack on Pearl Harbor wrong--she said it was a few weeks and in fact it was more than a year (November 1940 to December 1941)
Third, although "Bain" is described as a butler, he does lots of stuff that a butler would never ever do (like shaving a male guest).

But these are minor things overall. Likeable characters, well written and the plot more or less hangs together, which is no small feat for a time travel story. ( )
  haydninvienna | Sep 27, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 240 (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 (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Connie Willisprimary authorall editionscalculated
Crossley, StevenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dinyer, EricCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marín Trechera, RafaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sinclair, JamesDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Youll, Jamie S. WarrenCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"...a harmless, necessary cat"--William Shakespeare
"God is in the details."--Gustave Flaubert
Dedication
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.
Quotations
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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References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:33 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Ned Henry is sent back in time to the 19th century to obtain the original plans of Coventry Cathedral, destroyed by the Nazis in World War II. A rich American wants to rebuild it. Problems arise when Henry's lady friend saves a cat from drowning, an act that threatens to alter history. By the author of Doomsday Book.… (more)

» see all 10 descriptions

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