To Say Nothing of the Dog

To Say Nothing of the Dog

Have you ever wondered what a penwiper is? If you have the answer lies in this delightful novel. Set in 2057, time traveling Oxford dons are looking for lost relics from Coventry Cathedral for their boss Lady Schrapnell. It’s her mission to rebuild the cathedral because visiting the cathedral changed her great great great grandmother’s life. Sent to jumble sale after jumble sale, Ned Henry’s mission is to find out what happened to the bishop’s bird stump, the one relic Lady Schrapnell must have. His last drop send Ned into the hospital for sever time lag. Because of his time lag, Ned is sent to Victorian England in order to recover and complete a mission that might disrupt the time space continuum.

Verity Kindle is the reason Ned is sent back to Victorian England because she has done what no other time traveler has managed to do, she’s brought back something from the past. A cat to be precise. This cat has caused an incongruity that must be fixed or it could alter history forever.

This incongruity sends Ned and Verity on a delightful mission to right the wrongs done by bringing the cat into the future. They have to make sure certain couples meet, break up other couples, and get Lady Schrapnell’s great great great grandmother to Coventry Cathedral. But each time they try to fix the incongruity they make things even worse. That is until they find out that maybe the incongruity is fixing itself and their just part of the process.

To Say Nothing of the Dog is a love letter to literature. There are so many homages in this novel it kept me on my toes trying to keep up. From all things Victoriana, including Tennyson, hilarious Oxford dons, and spiritualism, to references to the Golden Age of mystery writer’s, including Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers. This novel has it all. Some of the best moments are when Ned and Verity are discussing the incongruity like Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. They are trying to hard to piece the pieces together they fail to see the bigger picture. Willis took these beloved literary characters and gave them more human counterparts. I feel like Ned and Verity solve mysteries like any of us would. Looking at everything like it’s a clue and focusing on the minutiae trying to be Hercule Poirot.

With elements of science fiction, romance, and mystery, this novel can’t go wrong. It’s a great introduction into science fiction for those readers like myself who haven’t really read much in the genre before. You just kind of get your toes wet into the genre with the elements of time travel.

Rating: 5/5 Read it and try not to laugh at her sly look on literature.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015. Happy reading!

2 responses »

  1. Good review. 🙂

    Just to add:

    To Say Nothing of the Dog is heavily based on Jerome K. Jerome’s classic novel Three Men in a Boat (1889). The comic interlude & characters that formed the basis of Jerome’s work appear in the novel. Instead of being subtle about her novel’s lineage, Willis uses the Victorian novel’s sub-title as her title, mentions the novel in the dedication, and has Ned Henry, who seems to know about as much about Victorian literature as he does about any history, often quote Jerome’s novel. The whole piece becomes meta-fiction – the events that occur in one novel become entwined with another. Jerome puts himself in the novel and the line between fiction and reality is purposely stretched thin. The time travellers encounter the J. and the others – are they the fictional versions or the real versions who are the basis of Jerome’s book ? Great fun.

    Both are very enjoyable works.

    • I remember that scene in the boat when the characters in Willis’s novel perform the actions that Ned ascribed to 3 men in a boat and inverted the fiction a bit. You have a great point! Where does fiction start and end. Now I want to read 3 Men in a Boat!

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