Contented Reader

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To Say Nothing of the Dog

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To Say Nothing of the Dog

Connie Willis




This book isn’t a new one; it won the Hugo and the Locus in 1999.  I picked it up because some blogger mentioned it as entertaining and funny, and I remembered how much I’d enjoyed reading Blackout and All Clear this summer while I was preparing to vote on my first Hugo  (I did end up voting for Willis, and she won.  Good job agreeing with me, rest of fandom!)

As the title might give away, the book is inspired by Jerome K. Jerome’s 19th century novel Three Men in a Boat.  That older book I only read for the first time this year, and it is utterly funny as only a Victorian can be, about three upper-class twits whose vacation on the river goes comically awry.  If you haven’t read it yet, go read it now, and then come back and finish reading my blog entry.  Jerome is more important.

Good, you’re back.  Wasn’t that great?  Aren’t you already making plans to re-read it, ideally on a summer day while lounging on the grass by the river drinking Pimms?

To Say Nothing of the Dog is also set in the world of upper-class Victorian England.  A time-traveler in need of rest and quiet has just one simple delivery to carry out, and then he can spend his two-week vacation sleeping late, reading, strolling in the garden.  But of course that simple delivery is not at all simple, and complications arise, and rest and quiet are the very last things it is possible to get.  There is a trip on the river, a table-rapping spirit, a pampered cat, a possibly socialist butler, an Irish housemaid, and the ugliest piece of Victorian liturgical art known to history.  It’s all very light, very fun, and very entertaining.

I did figure out the conclusion to one of the book’s main puzzles about fifty pages before the book revealed it to me, but that was all right, and just made it more fun to watch the inevitable conclusion unfold itself.  I also felt good about that, because I am not usually good at figuring out mystery stories.  I get bored, and my attention wanders, and by the time the detective says, “It was the chauffer who killed Mrs. Lemon!”  I’m asking, “Who’s Mrs. Lemon?  They have a chauffer?”

I don’t think I had ever heard of Connie Willis before this summer, though she’s apparently been around for years.  But after three positive experiences, I’ll definitely pick up the next thing I see with her name on it.


Written by Contented Reader

September 28, 2011 at 6:54 am

Posted in Reviews


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