Review – To Say Nothing of the Dog

To Say Nothing of the Dog – Connie Willis

Bantam Books, 2015

Originally published in 1998

When the power-brokers of the 21st century realised it was physically impossible to ransack history for its treasures, funding to the time-travelling historians of Oxford suffered a sharp decline – until the billionaire Lady Schrapnell commandeered the whole department to help her rebuild a ruined cathedral down to the very last detail. On a mission into the Victorian era, historian Verity Kindle manages the impossible: she rescues a cat and brings it into the future, where it has no business to be, thereby setting off a chain of events that might or might not destroy the universe as we know it, but maybe not if her colleague Ned Henry can return the cat in time. The question is…which time?

This is a cheerful caper that draws on 1930s mystery novels, Tennyson’s poetry and an enormous number of historical anecdotes all woven together with some pretty fascinating ideas about time-travel. There are also cats. It’s fun but dense, with huge chunks of exposition that slow down the action. More frustrating to me, the Victorian setting and 1930s inspiration come with a pervasively limited approach to the female characters. The Taming of the Shrew references, in particular, are one hundred percent guaranteed to get my hackles up. So I have mixed feelings about this book, but I liked the slant Willis gave time-travel and loved the conclusion.

 

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