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43 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars *Nearly* perfect
This book is a hoot! Time-travel romantic comedy, with literary allusions stirred in to taste. Most of the characters are stereotypes, but not badly-done, and I'm glad she's rationed the effusions of the mawkish Victorian maiden.
I could guess some but not all of the plot, and when I realised who the Victorian maiden was going to fall in love with—and why she...
Published on 24 Mar 2004 by adrianfagg

versus
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Comedy of errors
I felt compelled to add another review (my first negative Amazon review) to warn people about two things:
1) The English characters in the Victorian era speak as though American. UK readers (and all others with any kind of linguistic awareness) may take issue with English characters from our current era saying things like 'go get' as opposed to 'go and get', let...
Published 9 months ago by Mr. S. J. Hunt


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43 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars *Nearly* perfect, 24 Mar 2004
This book is a hoot! Time-travel romantic comedy, with literary allusions stirred in to taste. Most of the characters are stereotypes, but not badly-done, and I'm glad she's rationed the effusions of the mawkish Victorian maiden.
I could guess some but not all of the plot, and when I realised who the Victorian maiden was going to fall in love with—and why she had an aesthetic epiphany about the bishop's bird stump—I was hugging myself with delight as I saw the plot unreeling before me. In fact, like the ideal of a Golden Age mystery novel, it's very fair in putting out the clues, but for a lot of the time the reader is as bemused as the characters.
There are a succession of very Wodehouse-esque butlers who manage to be entertaining (in a dignified manner) throughout.
Animal-lovers will also enjoy this story; Willis has a light but accurate touch with both the dog and cat characters, and the reaction of the time-travelling protagonist to hearing his first purr is particularly nicely done.
There is only one thing that seriously annoys me about this book, which is the poor use of British English. It won't necessarily annoy the sort of Americans who aren't aficionados of British culture, but I'm not sure if they're the intended audience. Also, younger British people may well have watched enough American films and television that American turns of phrase come naturally to them. Any Brit of 30 or older, however, may be slightly jolted out of the willing-suspension-of-disbelief approximately once per page by the American usages (and let's face it, in this sort of fantasy-pastiche-comedy the w.s. of d. needs careful handling). I spent the first half of the book wondering if the protagonist was meant to be an American, then decided that the language was meant to be future-UK-English-more-influenced-by-American-than-at-present, and finally realised that she hadn't quite got it right when, in the Victorian setting, the peppery old Colonel, the credulous matron and the eccentric old Professor all use American turns of phrase. It's distracting because, in a time-travel story, anachronisms and social or verbal details are often part of the plot. She's done very well with a lot of it: verbal tics appropriate to the ex-military old gentleman, the Professor with a monomania, the poetic young gentleman and the mawkish maiden are all put in—which means it startles the reader when they all use 'gotten' and 'go [verb]' instead of 'go and [verb]'.
I don't think it's the business of the writer to Know Everything, of course, but it's sad to see a flaw like this getting in the way when a decent copy-editor could and should have fixed it—and God is in the details, as one of the characters remarks, and the writer should be aiming at affectionate-hommage rather than a theme-park version of British culture.
I'd give it five stars (not timeless-lit-classic but excellent-example-of-its-kind) if I wasn't so annoyed by the distracting language.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Curate's Egg (good and bad in parts), 12 Mar 2003
By 
R. G. Mabbitt (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This book is good fun. I do not normally read science fiction but I enjoyed exploring some of the implications of time travel with Willis. It is a bit slow to get going and I nearly gave up a couple of times, but it is worth hanging in there as once it does get going it sweeps you on at a rollicking pace. I get the impression that Willis did some pretty extensive research into Victorian England, and on the whole it is convincing. At the same time I think some of the characters are stereotypical caricatures of the English as seen by Americans, but this is a humourous book so why not? Occasionally their language sounds more central USA than central England - such as Baine the butler using 'momentarily' to mean shortly, not the English usage of the word. Some of the antics of the animals are also a bit fanciful, but the story is probably more fun for it. On the whole a very enjoyable read that will certainly make me look out for more by Willis.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dazzling time travel fantasy, 2 July 2004
By 
L O'connor (richmond, surrey United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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In the 2040s, time traveller Ned Henry has been charged with the unenviable task of helping to recreate old Coventry Cathedral, which was destroyed in the Blitz. He has to search for a bizarre object called the Bishop's Bird Stump, an ornately carved font, which is vital to the recreation of the cathedral. Complications arise when a fellow time traveller, Verity Kindle returns from the Victorian era inadvertently bringing a cat with her (cats are extinct in the 2040s).Ned has to jump back to Victorian times to help her put things right before history is irretrievably altered. Things get even more complicated when a charming but exasperating young Victorian lady called Tossie becomes engaged to the wrong person, and Ned and Verity have to try and get her matched up with the right one. But who is the right one? This book has a very complex and ingenious plot, interesting characters, and lots of humour. Will you guess the identity of Mr C before it is revealed? utterly gripping from beginning to end. i dropped my copy of this book in the bath and ruined it, I had to order another one, but it was well worth it. And I wish I had a Bishop's Bird Stump!
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars victorian age meets the future, 17 Nov 2005
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As Ned Henry is sent back to victorian times to right a wrong (one created by the people of the future), he is highly time-lagged. As the traits of the that time-lag include a tendency towards flowery speech and hearing impairment, it is felt that he will fit right in. At least there he will be able to recover from his all-too-many trips back into the past.
The nyiad of his heart Verity turns up there as well. Things could not have been better for good old Ned. But not so.
Connie Willis manages to enthrall her reader (ie myself) all the way through the book. This is not a high-action book with explosions and death on every page. Instead it manages to gently make fun of people in all eras. There is action and tension and that too is kept well within a gently comedic sphere.
I loved this book and have read it before. It was not lessened by a second reading, unlike too many of the other books that I have read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars To Read It You Must Be Barking!, 31 May 2009
By 
Mr. John Frank Herbert (Greenwich, London) - See all my reviews
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WHAT A HOOT!

Having read so many time travel novels I approached this comedy caper with more than a little trepidation.
No need.
What FUN! ....What LARKS!

Time travelling between the 1940's and the 21st century, backwards and forwards, is enough to send you giddy.

And the explanations of time incongruities and slippages will have you signing up for the funny farm!

But, HEY, it was a very entertaining read and the 1940's chit chat will have you in stitches.

What's it all about, you ask?
Alright, it's about Coventry Cathedral and rescuing the Bishop's Bird Stump from the Nazi air raid and .....oh, just go and read it .....and titter .....
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected - but wonderful on its own, 20 Aug 1999
By A Customer
I had a hard time getting into the start of the book because, as others have said, I was expecting science fiction. Yes, there is time travel - but for all that it doesn't follow the basic sci-fi outline at all. However, once I got into the book I thought it was hillarious. I couldn't put it down once I was half way through. Yes, the story has been done before (Oh no! We changed history!) it was the characters and the humor that made the book. Very enjoyable, very funny, well worth the read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Mix, 26 July 1999
By A Customer
This is one of the most interesting literary mixes I've ever come across, all the more surprising as it appears in the form of a science-fiction time-travel book. The book itself is a mix of hard sci-fi, Victorian comedy of errors and manners, and cozy mystery. Literary homages (most notably to Three Men in a Boat) and references abound, including P.G. Wodehouse's Beeves books, Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, not to mention Tennyson's poetry and Herotodus (who are both quoted throughout). The story has to do with a project in 2057 to rebuild the Coventry Cathedral, and time-traveling historians sent back to study its contents prior to the bombing of 1940. The story is set in motion when one of the historians somehow brings a Victorian-era cat through the time-travel "net", contravening the natural laws governing time-travel. The heroes must then return the cat in order to correct any "anomalies", but this gets them enmeshed in a matchmaking fiasco with loads of fun and well-drawn archetypes of the era (the ditzy girl, the absentminded Oxford don, the seance-loving matron, and miscellaneous butlers). And of course, by the end, all mysteries are revealed, everyone is paired off, and everything neatly dovetails. Truly a wondrous feat of writing and imagination.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars connie willis' best, 6 Jan 2006
By 
M. ynes (drammen, norway) - See all my reviews
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This was the first book by Connie Willis I read, and it was recommended to me because of other purchases (e.g. Jasper Fforde).
This is a brilliant, fascinating read. You are hurled into the action, and understand very little as the story progresses. Fortunately, the protagonist shares your confusion.
This is a very successful blend of science fiction, historical novel, romance and satire, and will be loved by anyone who enjoy genre mixing.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderous Melange, 30 Oct 2001
By 
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This is one of the most interesting literary mixes I've ever come across, all the more surprising as it appears in the form of a science-fiction time-travel book. The book itself is a mix of hard sci-fi, Victorian comedy of errors and manners, and cozy mystery. Literary homages (most notably to Three Men in a Boat) and references abound, including P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves books, Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, not to mention Tennyson's poetry and Herotodus (who are both quoted throughout). The story has to do with a project in 2057 to rebuild the Coventry Cathedral, and time-traveling historians sent back to study its contents prior to the bombing of 1940. The story is set in motion when one of the historians somehow brings a Victorian-era cat through the time-travel "net," contravening the natural laws governing time-travel. The heroes must then return the cat in order to correct any "anomalies," but this gets them enmeshed in a matchmaking fiasco with loads of fun and well-drawn archetypes of the era (the ditzy girl, the absentminded Oxford don, the seance-loving matron, and miscellaneous butlers). And of course, by the end, all mysteries are revealed, everyone is paired off, and everything neatly dovetails. Truly a wondrous feat of writing and imagination.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent, funny and damned clever all at the same time, 10 Jan 1999
By A Customer
To Say Nothing of the Dog allegedly is a rethinking of the 1888 vaudevillian-like 'novel' by Jerome K Jerome, Three Men in a Boat. In fact, Connie Willis has combined chaos theory, time travel, Victorian sensibilities (with a Jane Austen type flair)and really funny bits into a plot that would make an engineer proud. This is a terrific book! Our hero is trying to straighten out an historical incongruity which arose through an oversight by a fellow time traveler. The pace begins with a leaisurely, absurd river trip (a la Jerome) but pace and purpose subtly change through the pages to become a scientific thriller, a love story or two, a consideration of chaos theory and history, and ends with a masterful blending of all of the elements into a congruent whole (including one plotline that ends with an appropriate Victorian melodramatic twist).
This was my first try at Connie Willis, but I immediately picked up Lincoln's Dreams (which also starts slowly and picks up both emotional and plotting impact through its pages)and Uncharted Territory. Each of the books is very different than the next. If you like an author who is well informed in science, history, is sensitive to character, has her tongue firmly planted in her cheek with wit and grace and best of all can actually write well, I enthusiastically recommend To Say Nothing of the Dog. It may well start you, too, on ferreting out the rest of the books by this writer whose biggest fault is that she is under-prolific.
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