Book Review: "Red Dog" by Louis de Bernieres
5/5 - a short, sweet and moving tale of a popular dog...
Another Louis de Bernieres novel so soon? Of course. But this one is a lot shorter and I only found it because I was trying to get another book. Honestly, I was quite surprised at this book because it's different to the two de Bernieres novels I have already read. Over a decade ago I read Captain Corelli's Mandolin and as recent as a couple of days ago, I finished Birds Without Wings. One thing I've noticed about Louis de Bernieres novels is that he will always attempt to emotionally attach you to something, whether it be a cause or an idea and then, he will subvert it. For example: in Birds Without Wings, we have a very clear idea of the fact that we are supposed to like certain characters over others, but this is subverted later on in the book - not so that we do not like them anymore, but just so that we think about our opinions of them, formed throughout the course of the book. I think a similar thing can be said about Red Dog. So let's get into the review...
The book starts off with a dog who lives with his owners, Jack and Maureen Collins. This is a dog that, I tell you this now, cannot sit down for a second it seems. He's always doing something, always up and about and always getting into some sort of trouble. He's a very popular dog and there seems to be a lot of people he knows over the town. I love the way that Louis de Bernieres moves the dog from the home of Jack and Maureen to that of John. It just seems really fluid and, because this dog can't sit down and is always running about - it makes complete sense that he'd run off looking for adventure.
As the book progresses, we meet a character called Nancy who attempts to challenge 'Red' (the dog's name now) by sitting on the bus seat next to him for a couple of days. Red does not like it when you share his seat but Nancy doesn't care. She keeps persevering and eventually, Red comes around to her way of thinking and many people are impressed that she and Red are now good friends. Obviously, this only leads Nancy to meet John and it all gets a bit strange from then on really. But it just goes to show that the dog really brings together an entire community. He has friends everywhere it seems.
I'm not going to mention much more of the plot because something quite extreme happens next. However, I love this writing by Louis de Bernieres - it is so different to the other books I have read by him and it's refreshing to see he can write in such a frank and slightly humorous style. He also manages to create a massive amount of emotion through such a limited use of language (this book's prose is not nearly as flowery as Louis de Bernieres' usual requests for his novels). I loved reading this book though it didn't take very long, I did find myself going back to parts and looking at the way in which Red's personality is constructed through primarily, his meetings with other people and what other people know about him.
In conclusion, I found this book to be a brilliant, refreshing and moving change from the dense and incredible prose Louis de Bernieres normally writes. I also found the story simplistic, entertaining and beautiful. A dog who is pretty much loved wherever he is - plus, the wide Australian landscapes are described (though in limited amount) wonderfully.
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