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Red Dog, Red Dog [Hardcover]

Patrick Lane
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

7 May 2009

An epic novel of unrequited dreams and forestalled lives, Red Dog, Red Dog unfolds over the course of one week in and around a small town in British Columbia in 1958, with stories arcing back in time to the 1920s and '30s.

The novel centres on the Stark family. There is Elmer, a violent man with a troubled past; Lillian, who married Elmer shortly after the Depression, and who finds herself retreating steadily into isolation; their sons, Tom and Eddy, now in their twenties, are bound together by the secrets of their childhood years. Unrepentant, Eddy speeds freely along his reckless path, defiant and vulnerable. Tom, a loner, tries to make out of the fragments of the past a story that can explain the way things are. Then one night at a party, Eddy goes too far, and a spiral of events is set in motion, leading to the novel's last, dramatic moments.

Narrated in part by one of the dead infant daughters Elmer has buried, the novel is about hardship and loss, revenge and ancient loyalties, about the sweetness of first love and the power of memory. A richly textured portrait of a time and a place, filled with moments of harrowing violence and breathtaking descriptions of the natural world, Red Dog, Red Dog is a deeply moving novel that explores the legacies of the past and the possibilities of salvation.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: William Heinemann; First Edition, First Printing edition (7 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0434019984
  • ISBN-13: 978-0434019984
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 13.8 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,156,805 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Lane is undeniably an accomplished writer...and his achievement here is his evocation of a forbidding landscape as the element in which these embittered characters have their being...It is fitting that Lane's oracular first novel ends not conclusively but with a hint of the continuation of the kind of story it has told so well" TLS "Set in 1958, with flashbacks to the Depression and settler eras, this impressive tale of redneck life in British Columbia exudes suffering and menace." -- Adrian Turpin Financial Times "The tale, with Tom and Eddy at its heart, is one of loathing, neglect, abuse and brutality, with little redemption except the powerful, vivid quality of the writing itself...Lane is talented and five decades as a poet are evident in his prose: rich and evocative, yet always precise." Observer "the writing is beautiful." -- Kate Saunders The Times "[a] formidable debut." -- Catherine Taylor Guardian

Book Description

One of Canada's most highly acclaimed poets, and author of an award-winning memoir, Patrick Lane, with this astonishing debut, suddenly introduces himself as a major novelist.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lyricism and Hearbreak in British Columbia 1 Sep 2009
Format:Hardcover
Patrick Lane is apparantly well known in British Columbia, Canada as a poet but "Red Dog, Red Dog" is his first novel. It is set in the 1950's in and around a small town close to the northern end of the vast Okanagan Lake, an area both poor and unpopulated at this time. The lives of the characters are far removed from the more well known cities such as Vancouver, Calgary etc. The novel centres on the Stark family, cruelly dysfunctional and marked by generational tragedy. Narrated in part by the dead baby daughter (one of three) who lies buried in the garden, a victim of neglect and some kind of puerperal madness affecting the mother who only has feelings for her eldest son Eddie. Eddie,sent away to reform school in Vancouver as a young teenager, returns to his roots and seeks revenge on the local cop who previously brutalised him. Tom, the younger,cruelly neglected son, seems to take on responsibility for his wild elder brother and reclusive mother. He has strong feelings for the dead baby girls buried in the garden, he accepts his neglected and abusive childhood and does whatever is necessary to maintain the family bonds. Despite, or perhaps because of his inability to articulate, Tom's character is full of pathos and eloquence. A party held at the Stark house, gets out of control and the ensuing violence sets off a series of echoes which result in further tragedy and loss. This is a family and a community which is dirt poor in almost every sense. The level of cruelty and callousness between parents and their children is almost casual in its depiction. There is hope expressed through the relationship between Tom and his young girlfriend, also damaged but with a strong spirit. Read more ›
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Poetic but flawed 22 Sep 2009
By Mingo Bingo VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Red Dog Red Dog describes the lives of the dysfunctional Stark family over the period of a week in fifties Canada.

The main thrust of the narrative follows brothers, Tom and Eddy, through a party at their isolated farmhouse and then charts the tragic repercussions of the events of the evening.

Patrick Lane is a well respected poet in Canada and this shows through in the complex and challenging prose. He draws the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia in such an exquisite way that it is easy to get drawn into the unforgiving, but stunning landscape.

This is a story that is concerned with the complexity of family relationships, and in particular the way in which the faults of the parents can be carried down to the children.

The main problem that I have with the book is that the poetry of the language sometimes obscures the narrative drive. Whilst the intricacy of the descriptions of the region help to root the characters in time and place it also distracts from truly learning their motivations and in the end creates distance between us and them.

Some of the book is narrated by one of the dead daughters of the family and towards the start of the book these passages are particularly strong. In the later stages however, they become less frequent and this gives the impression that it is simply a tool used to impart information that the other main characters couldn't know, rather than for any deeper reason.

Eddy is an interestingly doomed character, but Tom seems to me too passive, which is a shame, because their relationship promises much.

Overall the quality of writing is as superb as you would expect from a poet of his standard, but I think finally that the premise and the writing is a little more accomplished than the plot and structure.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "It was stone country ... 17 Oct 2010
By Friederike Knabe - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
"...where a bone cage could last a thousand years under the moon [...] The hills rose parched from the still lakes, the mountains beyond them faded to a mauve so pale they seemed stones under ice." There can be vibrant beauty in harsh, sparse, desert-like landscapes, so much better suited to animals than to human beings. Evoking its atmosphere through achingly beautiful flowing lyrical language, depicting its intricate details, award winning Canadian poet and author Patrick Lane captures the essence of the atypical landscape of the northern edge of the Great Plains in Canada. Contrasting environment with the bleak reality of life for the people who inhabit this wild and unforgiving land, Lane has created a powerful, thought-provoking and at times challenging and unsettling novel.

Set in 1958 in a small remote community in the southern Okanagan region, the story centres on the two Stark brothers, their family and a group of friends, enemies and neighbours. While the actual events take place in the space of a week, the narrative moves in flashbacks to previous generations and the early settler years. After roaming through the Prairies since his early teenage years in search of work, whether as a farm hand, in mills or as day labourer, Father Elmer Stark has settled his family here in a place of "even more desolate towns that turned into villages, villages into clusters of trailers and isolated shacks in the trees, nothing beyond that bush that ran clear to the tundra." The people, carrying the inherited burden of poverty and misery are still suffering from the late fallout of the Depression in that region. In their struggle to make ends meet they easily turn to violence, alcohol and drugs, petty and major crimes.

With a few strokes, Lane creates vivid characters within complex relationships. The Stark brothers, Tom and Eddy, are an excellent study in contrast. "For Eddy, the world was without borders. He learned that from both Father and Mother. [...] Eddy's crimes and misdemeanours, the things he did and didn't do, were just part of his life". Tom was very different. "He could get lost in stories of other places and other lives [...]For Eddy, stories about the past, anyone's past, were deadly and he wanted none of it." From a very young age, Tom quietly, often undetected, listened to the stories Father told Alice, the baby sister who died just short of six months old. It was his way of mourning at his daughter's grave. While Lane depicts the many action scenarios with cinematographic precision, he evokes the changing moods and behaviours of the various individuals with a combination of disgust, understanding and compassion. Compassion? Yes, empathy comes to the fore when Alice's spirit takes over part of the novel's narrative, creating a gentle, caring countervailing force in her depiction of the family's history and current struggle against misery. The brothers' deep bond and caring love for each other transcends all differences and is one of the moving features of the story. And not only here, a glimmer of positive change emerges over time, offering hope to those who can make it their own.

This is not an easy novel to read. The poetic beauty of Lane's language does not always fit or alleviate the sense of irritation and displeasure the reader feels with, especially, the precise description of arbitrary violence and careless disregard of others. However, drawing on his own wide-ranging experiences and a deep familiarity with the land and the region's stories, Lane captures a place and its inhabitants that is authentic as it was real in the specific region and period of time. It is a powerful and an significant book that allows important lessons to be drawn, especially when addressing issues of disenchanted and malleable youth. An amazing achievement for a debut novel by a poet of long standing. [Friederike Knabe]

I read this novel in a Canadian paperback edition, not on a Kindle.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Red Dog Red Dog 4 April 2013
By Dog Brindle - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A Book Review

Red Dog Red Dog
by Patrick Lane

It amazes me. Settlers crossing North America in the 1800's.

The hardships they had to endure. Covered wagons, hostile Indians, winter. Food. Eating their dogs.

Hard to believe, in this day and age just how large North America really was.
To cross the continent, the trip took months.
People were totally ignorant of the dangers and just weren't prepared for such a journey.

The story opens in the middle of the Saskatchewan prairies, with just such settlers, the death of a baby girl, who only lived for seven days.
These were hard and enduring times, the lawlessness, the hunger. Unwanted births. It's hard to imagine.

Generations later, the story turns to, two Stark brothers, Tom and Eddy, opposites. The year 1958, the place - the Okanagan Valley.

This novel is very black. There is no happiness to be had on any page and believe me I was hoping to find some just to relieve the agony I felt. The careless disregard for anything living. No matter human or...

If you're a dog lover don't read this book. Describes dog husbandry for profit and fighting extensively.

I have to remember it's only a book. That was then this is now. We've come along way baby, just in compassion alone. Then you occasionally hear stories of people like Michael Vick and this is 2013 not 1958 when it was more common.

Patrick Lane has a style his own, maybe a little flowery with his descriptions but very believable characters and in your face situations. Abuse, incest, rape, murder all in one book.

I enjoyed this book. It was a real down to earth history lesson.
I give it two thumbs up, reluctantly, because it was a good read. It kept my attention from page one to the end. If there would have been one moment of happiness I'd have no reason to complain, but there wasn't and I was left feeling uneasy and spent.

Maybe that's how I am supposed to feel.

Michael Estey
3.0 out of 5 stars not as good as I expected 25 Jan 2013
By Patricia Marshall - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book was a good read but it was predictable and the ending was too obscure. Characterization was well thought out.
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