Heidi's Reviews > To Say Nothing of the Dog

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
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's review
Jun 22, 2012

really liked it

Oxford University in the not-too-distant future (2050s) has built a time machine, but time travel seems to be only useful to university historians who travel into the past to study and document periods and events. To prevent alterations to the time-space continuum, the time machine has built-in safeguards that prevent historians being sent to places where they could change history, and historians are also automatically prevented from bringing to the future anything from the past. That is, they were prevented from doing so until Verity, a historian, accidentally brings a cat through the time gate with her into the future.

Enter Ned, a historian with the symptoms of Advanced Time Lag (exhaustion that happens after making too many time jumps without resting). Ned is promised a chance to rest for a few weeks in quiet, quaint 19th century England...if he'll just return the cat first. The trouble is that Ned doesn't know anything about Victorian England.

Nothing is straightforward, of course, and Ned and Verity stumble all over themselves trying to restore the time-space continuum before history is irrevocably changed.

The characters are wonderful. Most of them are larger-than-life Victorian personalities: the nutty professor, the poetry-quoting Oxford student, the silly and repressed young woman, the gentleman who uses his fortune to collect goldfish, demanding older women in every century, and a butler who would rival Jeeves. Even the animals had personalities!

And the plot...this is a thinking person's time travel novel. What happens in Victorian England was influenced by what happened when the Coventry Cathedral was being built, and it in turn will influence what happens during World War II. The time-space continuum also acts to prevent any changes to itself...and it has a mind of its own!

This book was funny and lighthearted, a much different mood from the companion novel Doomsday Book (an excellent novel about 14th-century England during the Bubonic Plague). Connie Willis does manage to give away all the surprising twists in Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone and just about every Agatha Christie novel ever written, so if those are on your list to read, you might want to read them first. And those who have read Three Men in a Boat will enjoy the references.

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message 1: by Scott (new) - added it

Scott Swenson I am not sure if you have read Blackout and All Clear yet, but if not I highly reccomend them. They are also by Connie Willis and follow the same setup as To Say Nothing of the Dog.

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