Tim reviews DOGLANDS and recommends more too.
Over the past few weeks RAoR has been bringing you short reviews of some of our favorite books coming out this Fall, but every now and then a book needs more than a capsule review and today we have a special review of DOGLANDS from our colleague Tim.
In any given year, the number of books published about dogs rivals only books about Abe Lincoln and how to get rich quickly. As an unapologetic dog lover, I welcome the onslaught of new dog books, even if they are of varying quality and often merely pablum for the obsessed-with-all-things-furry. I love all genres of dog books, but top-notch writing is a must—Mark Doty’s DOG YEARS, Willie Morris’s MY DOG SKIP and almost anything by Jack London immediately come to mind.
When I picked up the galley of DOGLANDS, a new fall 2011 YA novel by noted British crime fiction writer, physician (and dog owner) Tim Willocks, I had a reasonable expectation that I was the ideal reader for the book and would be sufficiently entertained by the story. What I did not expect was how completely bowled over I would be by this magnificent novel. DOGLANDS works on so many levels I don’t even know where to begin. For one thing, the novel is a page-turning adventure story about a brave young half-breed greyhound named Furgul, who after escaping a brutal camp where other purebred greyhounds are groomed for racing, goes in search of his father and also plots to rescue his mother who remains captive at the camp and whose life may be at risk. The twists and turns of the story will perhaps remind readers other great adventure stories – CALL OF THE WILD, WATERSHIP DOWN and INCREDIBLE JOURNEY—but the story has a much more contemporary feel.
Told from the standpoint of Furgul and the motley crew of free-roaming mutts he meets in the wild, DOGLANDS portrays the canine and the human characters with a *philosophical depth and richness unusual in books aimed for younger readers: good and evil aren’t described in simple black and white terms, though at times I wonder whether we should promote “caninity” rather than humanity as an exemplar of compassionate treatment of others. The subtext of this allegorical tale is truly about–how we “animals” treat one another; intelligence is a canine as well as a human attribute; and a spiritual life and conception of an afterlife is not limited to humans.
Tim Willocks truly loves dogs and he also understands the all-to-human frailties of their caretakers and companions. One can read the book for its story and the emotional wallop it brings at times; but be prepared to want to find someone, anyone to discuss what you’ve just experienced because, at least for me, I have a newfound understanding and respect for dogs in particular and how much we have in common.
(* During the course of reading DOGLANDS, I was reminded repeatedly of a book I had read 20 years ago that had a profound effect on me: ADAM’S TASK by Vickie Hearne. Anyone interested in a more heady, though accessible examination about the care and treatment of animals, I highly recommend Hearne’s much discussed, much debated account (still in print from Skyhorse Publishing) -Tim
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