marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

To Say Nothing of the Dog

To Say Nothing of the Dog, or How We Found the Bishop's Bird-stump At Last by Connie Willis

A story about time travel, World War II, a cathedral, and the Victorian era.

The Oxford time-travel department has been taken over by Lady Schrapnell -- who has the money -- and turned into something to use to rebuild with complete authenticity the Coventry Cathedral that was lost in the raid during World War II.  Our story opens with two of them, including our narrator, trying to bluff their way through an encounter with authorities.  They had hoped to get through to the raid itself, but they had landed the next day, broad daylight, where their thrown-together get-ups are conspicuous.  And Ned, our narrator, is suffering a bad case of time-lag, which among other problems causes judgment issues.

He ends up back in his own time, where a beautiful red-haired naiad (time-lag also causes that kind of description) is dripping wet and arguing about something he can't quite get.  They decide to give him time to recover by sending him back to the Victorian era to do something and then recuperate there, where Lady Schrapnell can't reach him.  They don't properly prep him for the era, and he doesn't understand what he's supposed to do.

The rest of the tale involves falling in love on railway platforms, kittens, checking a newspaper for the date and not realizing it's several days old, a jumble sale, lots of discussion of mystery novels, love at first sight, stealing servants, a seance where two different people are trying to fake different things, the monstrous ugliness of the bishop's bird stump, working as a butler, a maid called Jane even though her name is Colleen, and much, much, much more.  It is difficult to understand how fantastically complex a plot gets, and then gets resolved in a marvelous manner.
Tags: fiction reviews: mystery, fiction reviews: sf

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