Connie Willis combines time travel, Victorian comedy of manners, and London during the Blitz into To Say Nothing of the Dog, a charming and delightful novel nominally about the search for a Bishop’s Bird Stump. Quite what a Bishop’s Bird Stump actually is remains largely irrelevant except that it instigates the time travel and Victorian shenanigans.
To Say Nothing of the Dog is part of Willis’ shared universe of time-traveling historians. It takes its name and a certain amount of its humor from Jerome K. Jerome’s humorous Victorian travelogue: “Three Men in a Boat, To Say Nothing of the Dog” which I had never heard of, but was inspired to read.
Time travelling historian Ned Henry spends a good portion of his time bumbling through Victorian England and encountering a series of eccentrics. Connie Willis has created a coherent universe out of time travel and a wealth of Victorian historical and literary references. The mystery is engaging and, perhaps more importantly, the humor does not feel forced. I enjoyed To Say Nothing of the Dog immensely, but then, time travel hijinks and Victoriana are just my cup of tea.