Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Dogs of Babel

The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst was another "find" from the free book shelf at work. I started reading it with a bit of trepidation. I remember it being pretty popular a few years back, but saw enough scathing reviews of it online to make me unsure about what to expect.

I actually found myself feeling really unsettled as I was reading it, but not because of anything that had to do with the quality of the writing. If anything, I thought the author managed to take what could be perceived as a somewhat gimmicky plot-- a grieving linguist loses his wife in a mysterious accident witnessed only by his dog, and subsequently tries to teach said dog to talk-- and treat it with enough sensitivity and depth to make it feel believable. Instead, I guess you could say that the dramatic irony had my stomach in knots, dreading what was next for the characters as they walked into trouble I could see coming from a mile away.

I last felt this way while reading Swamplandia!, but this time it was even worse, since the situations I found myself dreading involved horribly cruel treatment of dogs. The worst that I was imagining ultimately didn't happen, but that almost doesn't even matter. Though an interesting book, I can't honestly say that I enjoyed the reading experience.

Has a book ever made you feel unsettled like this?


  1. Yes! I felt the same way when I read this book with my book group... But you have made me wonder what you were imagining that didn't happen...I thought what DID happen was pretty bad...

  2. That's true, what happened was pretty bad. I think it was more that I was imagining that we'd see it unfold right on the page, rather than just learning what happened after the fact.

  3. I agree with you about this book. I was relieved that it wasn't as gruesome as it could have been, exactly what you said. We didn't have to see it unfold right on the page. What a disturbing book, and I made the mistake of recommending it to my Mom who loves dogs. I had forgotten about the disturbing parts.



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