by André Alexis
Paperback: 171 pages
Published by: Coach House Books on April 14, 2015
Available from: Amazon.ca Amazon.com Indigo/Chapters Barnes & Noble
" I wonder", said Hermes, "what it would be like if animals had human intelligence."
" I'll wager a year's servitude, answered Apollo, that animals – any animal you like – would be even more unhappy than humans are, if they were given human intelligence."
And so it begins: a bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo leads them to grant human consciousness and language to a group of dogs overnighting at a Toronto veterinary clinic. Suddenly capable of more complex thought, the pack is torn between those who resist the new ways of thinking, preferring the old 'dog' ways, and those who embrace the change. The gods watch from above as the dogs venture into their newly unfamiliar world, as they become divided among themselves, as each struggles with new thoughts and feelings. Wily Benjy moves from home to home, Prince becomes a poet, and Majnoun forges a relationship with a kind couple that stops even the Fates in their tracks.
About The Author:
André Alexis was born in Trinidad and grew up in Canada. His most recent novel, Fifteen Dogs, won the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. His debut novel, Childhood, won the Books in Canada First Novel Award, the Trillium Book Award, and was shortlisted for the Giller Prize and the Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. His other books include Pastoral (nominated for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize), Asylum, Beauty and Sadness, Ingrid & the Wolf, Despair and Other Stories of Ottawa and Lambton, Kent and Other Vistas: A Play.
Hmmmm, I love dogs but don't own one (unless you count my step-puppy that I babysit often). This book was quite a distinctive and unique perspective by the author who probably started out with this question: "What if dogs could think like humans?" The story was clever with how it delved into the canine behaviour crossing it with human intelligence and how it explored human emotions and language within a dog's mind (one dog actually composes poetry ~ loved him the best). I did smile while reading the thoughts behind the dogs watching humans pamper themselves (applying makeup, deodorant, etc.) and comparing the tasks to cultural reasons for why they were doing it (whites thinking they are the superior race, etc.). This gave the reader a deep philosophical look at our every day routines as humans, shining new perspectives at normal ordinary things.
However, I still can't believe this was the book that won the 2015 Giller Prize. Yes, it is unique, and I loved all the Toronto references in it, but still, in my opinion it was not worthy of a $100,000 prize. Yikes!
(because I love all the Toronto references and I also love dogs, especially ones that can compose poetry).