This is the third Connie Willis I've read, and I was a little leery. While I really enjoyed Passage, Lincoln's Dreams was pretty much the same book, written earlier, and less well. So I was a little worried about her recycling plots. And maybe she does, but this book has very little in common with either earlier book, and was thoroughly delightful and surprising.
To Say Nothing of the Dog
is hard to explain. It is madcap, in love with the nineteenth century
and its literature, full of inventive thought about time travel and the
applications thereof, and has elements of both a mystery and a
slamming-door farce - with a healthy dose of spiritualism.
main character, Ned Henry, is a historian. That is to say, a time
traveller. (Seriously, when do I get my TARDIS? If it's not issued with
my Ph.D. I'm going to be pretty damn disappointed.) Time travel,
however, has proven slipperier than expected, and hard to monetize. So
when Lady Schrapnell (with an attitude to match her name) appears and
sponsors them in order to make sure everything is accurate for her
rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral, destroyed during the blitz, absolutely
everyone is dancing to her tune.
But in the midst of the search
for the hideous bishop's bird stump vase, and whether or not it was in
the Cathedral when it was bombed, a historian in the 19th century brings
back a cat with her. This shouldn't be possible, and may create an
incongruity which could, in turn, ruin everything. So a time-lagged Ned
is sent back with the cat, a set of instructions he didn't hear, and
seems to start off by a) not returning the cat and b) making it so that
two young people meet and fall in love, when both are supposed to marry
other people - one of whom is Lady Schrapnell's great-great-grandmother.
and Verity, the woman who rescued the cat, attempt to part the two
lovers, with the aid of a seance, the cat, and the bishop's bird stump,
while dodging Lady Schrapnell's demands, and trying to figure out what
is causing the problems in time travel. Doors are slammed, ghosts are
seen, dogs are smuggled upstairs to bedrooms. (Cyril the bulldog is
probably my favourite character)
It's all a grand glorious mess - but it might just be part of the universe's master plan to correct an incongruity. Or is it?
that didn't leave you confused, nothing will. I make no promises
everything will become automatically clear if you read the book, but it
is a great deal of fun and thoroughly enjoyable. My head was frequently
spinning, but in a good way.
I read this book as part of an attempt to read all the Hugo Nominees