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To Say Nothing of the Dog (S.F. MASTERWORKS) Paperback – 9 May 2013

4.0 out of 5 stars 69 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz (9 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 057511312X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575113121
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 3.1 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 243,167 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Amazon Review

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-travelling 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 immortalise Ned's fumbling. (Or, more accurately, Jerome will earlier immortalise 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. 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 realises 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-travelling 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! --Amazon.com --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

" The most hilarious book of its kind since John Irving's The Water-Method Man and A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole."
--Des Moines Sunday Register
" An utter delight. Ms. Willis's unique, engaging voice will carry you off to a place where chaos theory makes perfect sense, time travel is a REASONABLE mode of transport, and safeguarding the fate of humanity is a respectable day job."
--Amanda Quick
" Willis effortlessly juggles comedy of manners, chaos theory and a wide range of literary allusions [with a] near flawlessness of plot, character and prose."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
" I have long thought that Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men In A Boat is one of the highest points of Inimitable British Humor. I chuckle; I gurgle; I know those three men--to say nothing of the dog. And now I am convinced there was a woman concealed in that boat, too: Connie Willis."
--Laurie R. King

"The most hilarious book of its kind since John Irving's The Water-Method Man and A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole."
--Des Moines Sunday Register
"An utter delight. Ms. Willis's unique, engaging voice will carry you off to a place where chaos theory makes perfect sense, time travel is a REASONABLE mode of transport, and safeguarding the fate of humanity is a respectable day job."
--Amanda Quick
"Willis effortlessly juggles comedy of manners, chaos theory and a wide range of literary allusions [with a] near flawlessness of plot, character and prose."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"I have long thought that Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men In A Boat is one of the highest points of Inimitable British Humor. I chuckle; I gurgle; I know those three men--to say nothing of the dog. And now I am convinced there was a woman concealed in that boat, too: Connie Willis."
--Laurie R. King

-The most hilarious book of its kind since John Irving's The Water-Method Man and A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.-
--Des Moines Sunday Register
-An utter delight. Ms. Willis's unique, engaging voice will carry you off to a place where chaos theory makes perfect sense, time travel is a REASONABLE mode of transport, and safeguarding the fate of humanity is a respectable day job.-
--Amanda Quick
-Willis effortlessly juggles comedy of manners, chaos theory and a wide range of literary allusions [with a] near flawlessness of plot, character and prose.-
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
-I have long thought that Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men In A Boat is one of the highest points of Inimitable British Humor. I chuckle; I gurgle; I know those three men--to say nothing of the dog. And now I am convinced there was a woman concealed in that boat, too: Connie Willis.-
--Laurie R. King --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on 24 Mar. 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
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).
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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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It turns out that if you want to write a thoughtful and deeply moving book about the philosophy of history, its importance in the affairs of mankind and the meaning of time and loss then the best way to do it is to write it in a style that blends equal parts of Jerome K Jerome, Kurt Vonnegut and P.G. Wodehouse. It's also important to throw in a little time travel and a Bishop's Bird Stump.

For quite a while, I thought I was reading a very good emulation of a Wodehouse novel - To Say Nothing of the Dog made me laugh the same way Wodehouse does (embarrassingly, uncontrollably) - but there are humane touches that lift it out of knockabout comedy and slowly draw you into the lives of the characters. This is where the time travel is handy. The characters from the future dropped into the middle of Victorian England give a perspective on the lives of the Victorians that Wodehouse never provided for his 20th century gadabouts. Slowly, one gets an inkling for what it might have been like to live back then.

The mechanics of the time travel aren't very important, which is a blessed relief. Sci-fi can get a bit tedious in the presence of time travel. One gets thrust into po-faced considerations of the paradoxes caused by the ability to kill one's own grandfather. The deal here seems to be that that kind of stuff isn't allowed. If one tries it on, the universe intervenes in ways that make one suspect that it might have a sense of humour. Indeed the whole notion of time travel gets a gentle ribbing with the paraphernalia of time travel being eerily reminiscent of the trappings of a Victorian séance.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
"To Say Nothing of The Dog" by Connie Willis is a novel that was recommended to me last year after I read and enjoyed another of Willis' novels, "The Doomsday Book". However, as with many other books, I have never found the time to read it. So when I found out that I had to read a Hugo award winner as part of an online Sci-Fi Reader Challenge I jumped at the chance to read this novel.

The story itself is set in the same universe as "The Doomsday Book" although I wouldn't really call it a sequel, even if a few characters do show up again. The reader once again follows a group of time travelling historians from Oxford University as they investigate the past. The main protagonist is called Ned Henry and he has been involved in a project to rebuild pre-WWII Coventry Cathedral and in particular he has been tasked with trying to identify the missions "Bishop's Bird Stump". However, due to his many trips to the past he begins to suffer "time-lag" which is a form of severe disorientation and confusion. So that he can recover and avoid the project manager who doesn't believe in time-lag, he is sent to the rural countryside in Victorian times for a vacation. However, his time-lag affected behaviour and the time-line altering actions of another historian results in a rather comic and enjoyable adventure.

Whilst I have mentioned "The Doomsday Book" as being within the same universe it is important to note for anyone who has read it that the difference between it and "To Say Nothing of The Dog" is like the difference between night and day. Whilst "The Doomsday Book" was dark, sad and depressing at times, "To Say Nothing of The Dog" is funny, light and merry.
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