This was a reread. So glad I reread it, this book always makes me laugh. I love this story of two time lagged historians stumbling about in the Victorian era trying to correct an incongruity. Its one absurdity after another as they try to corrall events within a chaotic system in which anything can affect the course of history, a kitten, ugly bric a brac, a flirtatious curate or a fancy goldfish.
At the same time, its not just a farce, the people are real people with real feelings and the plot isn't just imposed on them, but comes from their attempts to take care of themselves and the people they love. Connie Willis weaves all sorts of crazy things into a fabric that keeps looking like its going to fall apart but then unexpectedly resolves into delightful and laugh out loud funny patterns.
She works very hard behind the scenes making a coherent story that always teeters on the edge of chaos, drawing unexpected connections between disparate elements like detective novels and Victorian sentimentality and trains but she does the work herself, she doesn't impose it on her reader. I am left feeling like I'm sharing a friendly grin with a really great juggler who never drops a ball.