To Say Nothing of the Dog, Or, How We Found the Bishop's Bird Stump at Last

Willis, Connie

Book - 1998
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
To Say Nothing of the Dog, Or, How We Found the Bishop's Bird Stump at Last
In her first full-length novel since her critically acclaimedDoomsday BookConnie Willis, winner of multiple Hugo and Nebula Awards, once again visits the unpredictable world of time travel.  But this time the result is a joyous journey into a past and future of comic mishaps and historical cross-purposes, in which the power of human love can still make all the difference. On the surface, England in the summer of 1888 is possibly the most restful time in history--lazy afternoons boating on the Thames, tea parties, croquet on the lawn--and time traveler Ned Henry is badly in need of a rest.  He's been shuttling back and forth between the 21st century and the 1940s looking for a Victorian atrocity called the bishop's birdstump.  It's only the latest in a long string of assignments from Lady Schrapnell, the rich dowager who has invaded Oxford University.  She's promised to endow the university's time-travel research project in return for their help in rebuilding the famed Coventry Cathedral, destroyed in a Nazi air raid over a hundred years before. But the bargain has turned into a nightmare.  Lady Schrapnell's motto is "God is in the details," and as the l25th anniversary of the cathedral's destruction--and the deadline for its proposed completion--approaches, time-travel research has fallen by the wayside.  Now Ned and his colleagues are frantically engaged in installing organ pipes, researching misericords, and generally risking life and limb.  So when Ned gets the chance to escape to the Victorian era, he jumps at it.  Unfortunately, he isn't really being sent there to recover from his time-lag symptoms, but to correct an incongruity a fellow historian, Verity Kindle, has inadvertently created by bringing something forward from the past. In theory, such an act is impossible.  But now it has happened, and it's up to Ned and Verity to correct the incongruity before it alters history or, worse, destroys the space-time continuum.  And they have to do it while coping with eccentric Oxford dons, table-rapping spiritualists, a very spoiled young lady, and an even more spoiled cat.  As Ned and Verity try frantically to hold things together and find out why the incongruity happened, the breach widens, time travel goes amok, and everything starts to fall apart--until the fate of the entire space-time continuum hangs on a sÚance, a butler, a bulldog, the battle of Waterloo, and, above all, on the bishop's birdstump. At once a mystery novel, a time-travel adventure, and a Shakespearean comedy,To Say Nothing of the Dogis a witty and imaginative tale of misconceptions, misunderstandings, and a chaotic world in which the shortest distance between two points is never a straight line, and the secret to the universe truly lies "in the details."

Publisher: New York : Bantam Books, 1998.
ISBN: 0553099957
Characteristics: 434 p. ;,25 cm.


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Sep 24, 2014

Readers who enjoy a retake on a classic, and love humour and imaginative settings will likely enjoy this novel. Inspired by Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat, Willis takes our time-travelling characters on a wild ride from the future, back into the Victorian Age, on a search for a rare object, the Bishop's Bird Stump.

Dec 19, 2013
  • bwortman rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

A delight from start to finish, I'm not sure I've ever enjoyed a time travel novel more. With fantastic comedic moments, excellent historical descriptions of both England during the Blitz and the Victorian era, and a complex mystery that sits at the core of the novel, the novel never lulls. While loosely connected to Willis' previous novel, Doomsday, it isn't necessary to read the first to truly enjoy this novel and those who have are in for a surprise at the massive shift in tone. If you like time travel stories or even if you just want a good historical read, this book shouldn't be missed.

Jun 12, 2012
  • monikak1 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

fascinating time travel

May 18, 2012
  • princessofburundi rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Thoroughly enjoyable time-travel novel, witty, at times hilarious, incredibly well-researched, believable, well-written. The ending was a trifle predictable in Victorian fashion, but I think that it was fitting, given the subject matter.

Short summary: lots of people are travelling in time to help an eccentric and powerful rich lady restore Coventry Cathedral to the state it was in before the Second World War, romance follows, as do silly and laugh-provoking coincidences.

Sep 18, 2011
  • tocch101 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

This book seems to move very slowly in the beginning, but after the first fifty pages, I couldn't put it down. It is a very interesting idea, and is a good science fiction that will leave you wondering about its implications in the real world.

Apr 12, 2011
  • GuyN rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

The author is entirely devoted to recreating the world of Three Men in a Boat and does a reasonable job of it. There is humor and place/time, but the overarching time travel plot is tedious and jumbled. Perhaps I'd say that about any time travel since I'm not fond of the genre.

Apr 11, 2011
  • strathfines rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Fun and funny. Time travel, spoiled heiresses, butlers, and dotty Oxford professors.

Mar 13, 2011
  • andreareads rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

It's years since I read this but I remember loving it and recommending it at the time. Funny and delightful.

Feb 17, 2011
  • StarkReader rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Took a little to get into the story, but once I did, I was hooked. A good way to learn a little about history without realizing it. The story is a thoroughly entertaining caper with quantum physics, Victorian clothing difficulties, boating mishaps, cat burglars (literally), romance, séances, time travel confusion, butlers, 'little grey cells', Grand Designs, and a dog named Cyril. What more could you ask for?

Jan 12, 2011

Ned, an historian in the future is sent back to Victorian times to retrieve a mysterious object, a "Bishop's Bird Stump", in order to keep appease a wealthy university benefactor (Lady Shrapnel) and along the way keep history from going completely out of whack. Written with a fine sense of character and wit, Willis richly portrays the foibles of both the past and the future. This is something of a sequel to The Doomsday Book and is perhaps slighly better paced and certainly a lot funnier.

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Nov 10, 2008
  • conehead rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

One of the most pleasantly surprising reads I've ever come across. Don't be put off by the Sci Fi designations. This is a fun, suspenseful book with something that few books ever seem to have...a terrific ending.


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