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Dogsbody

August 13, 2010

Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones
published by HarperTrophy, August 7, 2001

Sirius, who inhabits the “dog star,” has been tried and convicted of a terrible crime. He banished to earth, to be born in the form of an ordinary dog. If he can remember enough of his existence as a luminary to complete a quest and find a certain magical object, he will return to his previous existence. Otherwise, he will live his short life as a dog, then die.

Sirius is born into a litter of half-Labrador puppies, sired by a mysterious white, red-eared dog. A few days after they are born, the puppies are dropped into the river to drown. Sirius and four of his siblings survive, and he finds himself in the care of lonely little girl named Kathleen. Living with relatives in England, far from home, Kathleen is ostracized because she is Irish. She and Sirius form a deep bond. As he muddles through his life as an ordinary canine, coping with hostile humans and rivalries with cats, memories of his former life start to seep in and he remembers his quest. He sets out on his mission, getting help from unexpected sources.

This was my first foray into Diana Wynne Jones’s work, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. It is a fun and unusual novel with unexpected twists. Much of the book focuses on Sirius’s canine life surrounded by a troubled family and three cats. This story, which could easily have been dull, insipid, or hopelessly cute, is told with humor and charm. The rest of the novel delves into fantasy and adventure, with a bit of Celtic mythology woven in. At each turn in the plot, I didn’t know what to expect, and I was particularly drawn to the mythological overtones.

While I didn’t fall in love with this novel, I did enjoy it. It is a fun, imaginative story. It drew me into Sirius’s mind — he was a surprisingly well-developed character. Other characters, including Kathleen, were lightly drawn but endearing. And I liked the thought provoking, bittersweet ending.

I recommend this novel to science fiction and fantasy lovers, and I think it might especially appeal to pre-teens and young teens. I am tempted to buy a copy for my 11-year-old son who has a weakness for imaginative fantasies and dog stories.

More Reviews: Jenny’s Books; Things Mean a Lot; Words by Annie

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 13, 2010 3:59 am

    I haven’t heard of this one. We’ve read many of her books. Marina is a big fan. If you like fairy tales, you might enjoy Howl’s Moving Castle, which was made into a movie )that took it far from its fairy tale roots). It’s a very sweet and funny book. I’ll have to look for Dogsbody.

    Peace and Laughter!

  2. August 13, 2010 7:34 am

    She’s good at turning a plot around, isn’t it? And if there’s one thing you can count on DWJ for, it’s excellent characterisation. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  3. August 14, 2010 2:32 am

    I’ve been hearing so much about DWJ lately. This book sounds like the cutest ever! Even if it isn’t fall-in-loveable, it still seems awfully appealing!

  4. August 16, 2010 10:55 am

    That sounds great.

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