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Review: To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

>>Friday, March 26, 2010

Title: To Say Nothing of the Dog
Author: Connie Willis
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Pages: 493
Genre: Science Fiction, Romance, Comedy, Historical Fiction
Publication Date: November 18th, 2009
Publisher: Bantam
Rating: 9

From Goodreads: From Connie Willis, winner of multiple Hugo and Nebula Awards, comes a comedic romp through an unpredictable world of mystery, love, and time travel...

Ned Henry is badly in need of a rest. He's been shuttling between the 21st century and the 1940s searching for a Victorian atrocity called the bishop's bird stump. It's part of a project to restore the famed Coventry Cathedral, destroyed in a Nazi air raid over a hundred years earlier.

But then Verity Kindle, a fellow time traveler, inadvertently brings back something from the past. Now Ned must jump back to the Victorian era to help Verity put things right--not only to save the project but to prevent altering history itself.

Why did I read this book? This is the March Challenge in Calico Reactions Book Club!

Source: Bought

My Review
This is my first time participating in calico-reaction's book club, and I have to say what a great start! I decided to participate even though I have limited time to read because I wanted to read more scifi and having a community to discuss it after just made it more appealing.

To be honest, when I started the book, I thought it was definitely funny and entertaining, but I really couldn't get into the actual story. I had trouble reading more than one chapter at a time (which is unusual for me). Ironically, the first part of the book which mimics Willis' inspiration, Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome in which there are in fact about 100 pages about three men in a boat - to say nothing of the dog - was in my opinion the most boring part of the book. Nonetheless I was held by Willis' talent in writing passages that evoked visions of the past and present. For instance, one of my favorites was: "She was a delicate blossom, capable of growing only in a single time, adapted only to the select hothouse environment of the late Victorian era: the untouched flower, the blooming English rose, the angel in the house. She would be extinct in only a handful of years, replaced by the bicycling bloomer girl, the cigarette-smoking flapper and the suffragette." (p.94)

I noticed my attention piqued when the plot moved into the mystery aspect, and also when Ned Henry and Verity Kindle began to have scenes together. I thought the mystery was so well done, although I did catch some hints and guessed right on a couple things, nothing prepared me for the ending in which Willis reveals a very thought out and masterminded conclusion. As for Ned Henry, I can't really describe Willis' skill in creating and maintaining such a distinct narrative voice through that character. I feel like I know the guy. Some of my favorite parts were when Ned was time-lagged and had the tendency to sentimentalize, which was quite charming and hilarious.

Rating: 9
I think this book is great fun and also contains an impressive plot and that it could be good for fledgling scifi readers (like me). Also, anyone who is interested in Victorian history should read this too as most of it takes place in that time. I hope to read more of Connie Willis in the future.

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