REVIEW: To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

REVIEW: To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie WillisTo Say Nothing of the Dog (Oxford Time Travel #2) by Connie Willis
Published: Bantam Books (1998), Paperback, 493pg
Source: Bought
Genres: Fiction, Sci-fi

Ned Henry is badly in need of a rest. He's been shuttling between the 21st century and the 1940s 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 traveler, 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. (from Goodreads)

This is technically the second book in the Oxford Time Travel series, though you don’t need to have read the first book to enjoy this one. I this because a) I’m pretty sure someone told me so (Jo Walton, maybe?) and b) I haven’t read the first one and I very much enjoyed To Say Nothing of the Dog!

So, this book has a lot of different genre elements in it. There is time travel, yes, there are people from the future going into the past and it’s awesome. But it’s also a comedy-romance-mystery! All of these things blend together to make an amazing fun book. I laughed out loud many time while reading it, I fell in love with the characters and the world and the writing, I had SUCH A GOOD TIME! And I can’t wait to read every other Connie Willis book I can get my hands on.

Though it’s scifi, the focus isn’t so much on the science as it is on the reactions of the characters TO the science, and the consequences of those characters trying to mess with established time line events. The really fun parts happen when the time travel thingies start breaking down because of what seems to be human interference– and woven around all this is a wonderful story about romance! AND a mystery, don’t forget that part.

The mystery is not so much a whodunit, as there’s no murder, but it IS a whoisit. And a whereisit, because an object has disappeared somewhere in time! It’s very exciting, in a relaxing, surely-nothing-bad-will-happen sort of way. I LOVE relaxing mysteries; they remind me of when I read Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown as a kid. You get an intellectual challenge but none of the stress that can happen with regular murder mysteries.

Somewhere around the 50% mark I had an inkling of who the solution to the whoisit part of the mystery, and as the book progressed I grew more and more sure until I was screaming “PLEASE LET IT BE HIM” and it was! YAY! I didn’t even mind that it was obvious who the answer was, because the other mystery, the whereisit, had such an unobvious answer that I feel I need to go and reread the whole thing again to see if I can pick up clues I may have missed before.

The characters were completely adorable, especially Ned who is a kind of future Bertie Wooster. He’s kind and heroic in a gentlemanly way, and his narrative voice is so hilarious I am STILL giggling about some of the things that happened to/around him. Verity isn’t a Jeeves, though; she’s more like…a Harriet Vane, maybe? Though I may just be saying that because she kept comparing herself to Harriet the whole time. She’s smart and adventurous and about as perfect a match for Ned as could be. ROMANCE! Yay!

Bertie Wooster/possible Ned(/Hugh Laurie as Bertie Wooster). Although Verity actually says he looks like Lord Peter, so he should be blond.
Bertie Wooster/possible Ned(/Hugh Laurie as Bertie Wooster). Although Verity actually says he looks like Lord Peter, so he should be blond.

Sidenote: I am so glad I read the Lord Peter books before reading TSNotD. Verity is way into those books (and interwar mysteries in general!) and she’s always talking about how Lord Peter and Harriet did something and so she and Ned should do that, too (including marriage) and if I hadn’t read the Lord Peter books beforehand I don’t think my level of squee at the mentions would have been as high.

That said, do what you want. No way am I saying you have to read all 13 Lord Peter books BEFORE reading TSNOtB!

It MIGHT help to have read Three Men and a Boat, though! Because, much like how Verity is into the Lord Peter mysteries, Ned is into Jerome K. Jerome’s books. Like with the Lord Peter books, though, I don’t think it’s a requirement. It just might make TSNotD more fun, see?

Anyway: To Say Nothing of the Dog was a HUGE success with me. I loved every minute of it, would read again, A+++!

Read: March 18-21, 2014

Do you like it when books heavily reference/rely on plots from other books for characterization or whatnot? I tend to like it when I’ve already read whatever the reference is, but when I haven’t

4 thoughts on “REVIEW: To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis”

  1. This is a good question — I usually like it when I know and love the book in question, and can feel all “insidery”; but sometimes, I also can enjoy the ones where I haven’t read the book referenced, and if I do read it later, have a double pleasure in the memory of my first experience. (If that makes sense.) I think that if the author is drawing upon something deeper than just the surface details of the book or story, then that communicates itself without one’s needing to be in on the “secret,” even if there are some things that are puzzling. If it’s more like the author is writing in a code that you don’t know, then it’s just annoying.

  2. I agree with you! If I haven’t read the other books it doesn’t work for me. But, I love FABLES, for example, because it draws on things I am aware of.

  3. I read this one first and went back to Doomsday book at the end, after also reading Blackout and All Clear and had no issues. I loved this book so much and hope to read it again soon!

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