This was one of those “If you like X then you may also like Y” recommendations as I enjoyed The Eyre Affair. Well, the recommendation was a good one as I had never heard of the book, or Connie Willis, who has apparently won loads of science fiction awards for her novels.
I even loved the title of this book, as it is the sub-title of one of my favourite classics (Three Men In A Boat). And yes, Jerome K Jerome does make a cameo appearance in the story!
The story takes place about 40-odd years in the future (although this was first published in 1997, so a few more yeras then) and time-travel has been conquered (into the past) – although general concensus has been that there’s not much use for it, so people have abandoned it, apart from a group of specially trained historians working out of Oxford University.
The problem has been that nothing can be brought back from the past though and nothing in the past can be altered for fear of the repercussions – so what’s the point!
Ned Henry is a time-travelling historian who is working on a private case for Lady Shrapnell who is rebuilding Coventry Cathedral (in Oxford) and wants to get everything perfectly replicated as at the time it was burnt down during World War II. he is in charge of finding out the whereabouts of a frivilous ornamental piece known as the Bishop’s Bird Stump – although this seems to be proving difficult to track down.
Whilst returning from a ‘drop’ he encounters Verity Kindle, who had inadvertantly broken the rules of time travel, and now is in danger of altering the present in a dramatic way – so her and Ned are sent back to the sedate and moralistic Victorian era to try to put the timeline back to rights!
I loved this, it was clever, witty and yet still had a sense of adventure and pace. I was really left wanting more. I will definitely pick up another Connie Willis (although this was actually more difficult to get hold of than I would have liked!) If anyone would like to borrow my paperback copy, just ask!