Book Review: Reading Fifteen Dogs with one beside me…

I have just finished reading a book which I got for my birthday (thank-you Lauren!) and I thought I’d tell you about it. It was called Fifteen Dogs by the Canadian author Andre Alexis.

It’s a story of Fifteen Dogs (so an aptly named book then!) who are given the power of human intelligence by the gods Apollo and Hermes. It falls into the fantasy genre and I liked the idea of it when I read the synopsis on the back of the book. What came on the following pages I found to be quite a surprise…

As I already think that my particular furry baby really is human with associated sensitivities and intelligence, the concept of a dog with human intelligence was very appealing to me. I had conjured up in a my head a lovely little whimsical story of 15 dogs developing deeper relationships, loving each other and enjoying their new found intelligence. But it turns out that dogs with human intelligence aren’t always lovely, cuddly and kind.

The dogs were divided pretty quickly in the book between those who embraced the new power and those who resisted it. This divide was reflected in a raw violence and lack of sympathy which was unexpected for me. I struggled at times to get through some of the scenes – and I admit I actually skipped some of the more descriptive, violent sections.

Now that I’ve admitted what a wimp I am, I can’t fault the uniqueness of the plot and how clever the writing is. The main protagonist, Manjoun, was a well-developed character and I fell in love with him. This black poodle ends up being taken in by a couple and becomes part of their lives developing heightened relationships with them. He is so incredibly loyal and kind although his canine instincts never leave him so he never “becomes human”. I particularly like the scene where he watches a movie with his human companion but finds it all a bit flat because he can’t smell anything from the scenes.

I loved the Toronto setting and the description of the streets, High Park and the Beach. I love the sense of familiarity reading about Toronto gives to me. The final pages moved me to tears which must be the sign of a successful author to evoke such emotion in their writing. (I hate it when that happens when I’m travelling on the train!)

So do I recommend the book? Yes – it’s an interesting, unique story but be prepared that it may not be quite as you expect.