Ahoy there me mateys! This be the eleventh book in me Ports for Plunder – 19 Books in 2019 list. Me introduction to this author came in the days before this log when the First Mate gave me a copy of the doomsday book to read during a long car trip. I started to read it, ignored him for the entire ride, and finished the book. It seriously be one of the top books I have ever read. It also won the Hugo, Locus, AND Nebula awards. How cool is that? Ever since I read that book back in 2010, I had been meaning to read this second book. So when I made the 19 for 2019 list, I knew this had to be one of them.
Books one and two can be read in any order but personally I am glad I read them the way I did. While the doomsday book is sad but clever (black plague y’all) this book is silly and funny and clever. Apparently the title about the dog comes from a crazy popular book written in 1889 called three men in a boat by Jerome K. Jerome. I had never heard of it or the author but found the background fascinating once I did some research. I even downloaded the 1889 book and already see the similarities. Also three men in a boat was referenced by Robert Heinlein who Willis thanks in her dedication: “To Robert A. Heinlein, Who, in Have Space Suit—Will Travel, first introduced me to Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat, To Say Nothing of the Dog.” I now want to reread that Heinlein juvenile knowing the reference.
Ultimately I see why this dog book is beloved and won both the Locus and Hugo awards. It is just plain fun. A time-traveling historian, Ned, has made one too many jumps into the past and has been ordered to go on medical leave. Only problems have arisen and so his leave is instead turned into a trip back to Victorian England where he can do just one simple task and then take a well-deserved vacation there. Of course hijinks ensue. This includes shenanigans with a cat, a bird stump, a boat trip, jumble sales, and trying to make the world not end. Among other things.
This romantic comedy is cute but also so very, very clever. I absolutely know that I missed references and not just the nods to the 1889 book. This novel also references murder mysteries, tons of historical events, and has Victorian style humor. A blogger, thesleeplessreader, has a fun breakdown of some of them. This link lists the tropes (spoilers!) it feels the book has and many of them I have never even heard of! And yet these references were not intrusive or annoying. I was delighted by the ones I got. The story did not feel bogged down by them.
And then there is the bird stump. I didn’t know what one was. Apparently this be a particular type of Victorian vase.
The bird stump in the novel is a thing called a MacGuffin. I didn’t know what one was. Apparently:
In fiction, a MacGuffin is an object, device, or event that is necessary to the plot and the motivation of the characters, but insignificant, unimportant, or irrelevant in itself. The term was originated by Angus MacPhail for film, adopted by Alfred Hitchcock, and later extended to a similar device in fiction. (source)
Imagine me surprise when the First Mate used that term later that day in reference to another book he was reading! It was awesome. This book also used spoonerisms which I had also just learned about because I was doing research into malapropisms and the play the rivals.
So aye, the real treat of this book be the foray into and love of the English language. The doomsday book still be me favourite but I am so glad to have read this one too. I will certainly be reading the other books in this series. Arrrr!
Goodreads had this to say about the novel:
Connie Willis’ Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Doomsday Book uses time travel for a serious look at how people connect with each other. In this Hugo-winning companion to that novel, she offers a completely different kind of time travel adventure: a delightful romantic comedy that pays hilarious homage to Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat.
When too many jumps back to 1940 leave 21st century Oxford history student Ned Henry exhausted, a relaxing trip to Victorian England seems the perfect solution. But complexities like recalcitrant rowboats, missing cats, and love at first sight make Ned’s holiday anything but restful – to say nothing of the way hideous pieces of Victorian art can jeopardize the entire course of history.
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