Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Carolyn Parkhurst/THE DOGS OF BABEL

i picked up this book after giving up on k1m harr1son's dead w1tch wa1king 100 pages in. but that's another story. literally. the dogs of babel was passed on to me by a friend a few years back. and since i'm waiting for my book orders to arrive, and am too mushy brained to slog through crime and punishment, i thought i'd give this book a go. i started reading a little before dinner, and finished the tale after 11pm.

the story is narrated in the first person in both present and past tense by paul, who finds his wife has died after falling from the tall apple tree in their back garden. the only witness is their dog, lorelei. due to grief and (as we will learn) guilt, paul (a professor in linguistics) changed his research to dog speech. or getting your dog to talk, in the hopes of finding out what happened on that fateful day when his beloved lexy fell from the tree.

the novel is a love story (paul recalls much of the beginning of their courtship) as well as a mystery. the good points? i find parkhurst to be a good storyteller. her narrative voice is strong. her prose is good. unlike some reviewers i read on amazon, i think she is a good writer. she describes many things in metaphors and similes in beautiful, uncliched language--something which is difficult, as i can attest to first hand.

the problem with the story? unbelieveable plotlines. a cult of dog mutilators who ripe out throats of canines, etc to encourage them to "speak". all this is difficult to read, and prompted much furor among animal lovers amongst the reviews. i found it difficult to read, but even more difficult to believe. also, lexy, paul's beloved, is obviously bipolar from the start. she has outbursts which makes it obvious that she is off kilter. it was no mystery to me from the start [spoiler] that she did indeed kill herself.

i need a new category for this story. i don't usually like to read depressing stories. i really don't. i did enjoy the time traveler's wife, and i think that was more well done although the reader could see what was coming. the feel and tone of the story is similar, in that the narrators describe their romances in detail. i thought her storytelling and prose were strong, but the actual plot and characterization less so. i would recommend the book only if you enjoy this type of story--which i usually do not.


angelle said...

i liked this story a lot in the beginning. it definitely took a turn for the worse once it got to the weird doggie-talking cult thing. shame, because it had potential.

cyn said...

angelle, i'd have to agree with you. i wondered if the story bordered on magical realism? but i have no idea what that is. hah!

Church Lady said...

I was just going to write something about Dean Koontz, and I see he's up next on the blog roll.

This is an informative and really good review.

Koontz does something similar with dogs in "Watchers." He pulls it off quite well.

I'll have to skim through this book to see if I'd like to fork over the dough!