I really enjoyed this. To Say Nothing of the Dog is a funny, meandering journey through Victorian England from the point of view of Ned Henry, an Oxford historian from the 21st century. The laws of the “time continuum” prevent anything of significance from being brought from the past to the future, so that time travel is useless as a commercial venture and has been left to academics instead. As the book opens, Verity Kindle, another Oxford time traveler, appears to have violated the laws of the continuum by bringing a cat from Victorian times to the future. Ned Henry, a specialist in 20th century history, is assigned to travel to the 1940s and search for an artifact from Coventry Cathedral known as “the Bishop’s bird stump” and determine its location during the Nazi Blitz in 1940. It’s a very well constructed story and was a lot of fun to read.
This is the second book in a series; the books are loosely connected by the concept of time traveling Oxford academics, but this one stands alone pretty well. (I haven’t read Doomsday Book yet because the audio version that I tried before turned out to have a corrupted tape, and the library doesn’t have a hard copy. I can check out the ebook when I get around to it though.)
“Nothing in all those “O swan” poems had ever mentioned that they hissed. Or resented being mistaken for felines. Or bit.”
“The reason Victorian society was so restricted and repressed was that it was impossible to move without knocking something over.”
“One has not lived until one has carried a sixty-pound dog down a sweeping flight of stairs at half-past V in the morning.”
“I was never going to get any sleep. I was going to have Alice in Wonderland conversation after Alice in Wonderland conversation until I died of exhaustion. Here, in the restful, idyllic Victorian era.”
“It is a temporal universal that people never appreciate their own time, especially transportation. Twentieth-Century contemps complained about cancelled flights and gasoline prices, Eighteenth-Century contemps complained about muddy roads and highwaymen. No doubt Professor Peddick’s Greeks complained about recalcitrant horses and chariot wheels falling off.”
“History was indeed controlled by blind forces, as well as character and courage and treachery and love. And accident and random chance. And stray bullets and telegrams and tips. And cats.”