Title: To Say Nothing of the Dog
Author: Connie Willis
What it's about: Okay. This one's a toughie to summarize (and you thought Diana Wynne Jones was complex!). Basically, in the future, time travel has been invented, and historians go back in time to study the past. There's a project going on to rebuild Coventry Cathedral, and Ned Henry is on the team to go back to the past and figure out what became of a decoration in the cathedral, the bishop's bird stump. He's been run ragged by Lady Schrapnell, the woman who is funding the rebuilding, and after he's come down with a bad case of time-lag, his supervisor sends him to the Victorian era to recover, telling Ned that he has just one small task to complete before he can relax. Unfortunately, Ned can't remember what that is. Even worse, he's starting to worry that he's been causing incongruities in time just by stumbling around the past in his time-lagged state. And finally, no matter how much sleep he gets, he can't get fellow historian Verity Kindle out of his head.
What I thought: Haaard to summarize. But this is an utterly charming story. It mixes science-fiction with historical fiction and comedy of manners and mystery. It's littered with references to various historical events, and time travel theory is tossed around right from the get-go. This book starts out being extremely confusing, but you gotta just keep reading, and it all starts to make sense and work itself out to a very satisfying conclusion. The book is funny, too. Ned's a witty narrator, and he's surrounded by a hilarious cast of supporting character, from Mrs. Mering and her enthusiasm for spiritualism to Tossie and her cunning way of getting what she wants to Terence's innocent lovesickness.
Overall: This has quickly earned a place in my list of very favorite books because of its all-around quality. It's a thoroughly engrossing tale.