To Say Nothing of the Dog, Or How We Foundthe Bishop’s Bird Stump At Last (1998) by Connie Willis, winner of multiple Hugo and Nebula awards, is an ideal book for the beach. It is a comedic story of mystery, romance and time travel. Ned Henry, time-lagged and exhausted, desperately needs rest after shuttling between the 21st century and the 1940s to search for a Victorian atrocity called the bishop’s bird stump. It is part of a project to restore the famed Coventry Cathedral, razed to the ground by a Nazi air raid over a hundred years earlier.
But now Ned must fix a chronological complication–caused by fellow time traveller Verity Kindle–by travelling back to Oxford in 1889. He arrives in the Victorian era dressed in boating clothes, a mountain of luggage, a regal cat in a box and absolutely no idea of what he is supposed to do next. After drifting down a river, in a parody of Three Men in a Boat, he finally finds Verity, his contact for this mission, and together the two must solve the problem or the Nazis will win the Second World War.
review by Peter at the Vernon Branch