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The Story of Edgar Sawtelle [Paperback]

David Wroblewski
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 July 2008

A contemporary retelling of Hamlet of stark and striking brilliance set on a farm in remote northern Wisconsin.

On a farm in remote northern Wisconsin the mute and brilliant Edgar Sawtelle leads an idyllic life with his parents Gar and Trudy. For generations, the Sawtelles have raised and trained a breed of dog whose thoughtful companionship is epitomised by Almodine, Edgar's lifelong companion. But when his beloved father mysteriously dies, Edgar blames himself, if only because his muteness left him unable to summon help. Grief-stricken and bewildered by his mother's desperate affair with her dead husband's brother, Edgar's world unravels one spring night when, in the falling rain, he sees his father's ghost. After a botched attempt to prove that his uncle orchestrated Gar's death, Edgar flees into the Chequamegon wilderness leading three yearling dogs. Yet his need to face his father's murderer, and his devotion to the Sawtelle dogs, turn Edgar ever homeward. When he returns, nothing is as he expects, and Edgar must choose between revenge or preserving his family legacy…

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Product details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (7 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007265026
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007265022
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 500,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


I flat-out loved The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, and spent twelve happy evenings immersed in the world David Wroblewski has created. As I neared the end, I kept finding excuses to put the book aside for a little, not because I didn't like it, but because I liked it too much; I didn't want it to end. Dog-lovers in particular will find themselves riveted by this story, because the canine world has never been explored with such imagination and emotional resonance. Yet in the end, this isn't a novel about dogs or heartland America–although it is a deeply American work ofl literature. It's a novel about the human heart, and the mysteries that live there, understood but impossible to articulate.

Yet in the person of Edgar Sawtelle, a mute boy who takes three of his dogs on a brave and dangerous odyssey, Wroblewski does articulate them, and splendidly. I closed the book with that regret readers feel only after experiencing the best stories: It's over, you think, and I won't read another one this good for a long, long time.

In truth, there's never been a book quite like The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. I thought of Hamlet when I was reading it (of course…and in this version, Ophelia turns out to be a dog named Almondine), and Watership Down, and The Night of the Hunter, and The Life of Pi - but halfway through, I put all comparisons aside and let it just be itself.

I'm pretty sure this book is going to be a bestseller, but unlike some, it deserves to be. It's also going to be the subject of a great many reading groups, and when the members take up Edgar, I think they will be apt to stick to the book and forget the neighborhood gossip. Wonderful, mysterious, long and satisfying: readers who pick up this novel are going to enter a richer world. I envy them the trip. I don't re-read many books, because life is too short. I will be re-reading this one.

Stephen King

About the Author

David Wroblewski lives in Colorado with the poet Kimberly McClintock

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
53 of 57 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I'm not going to write a long review because I don't want you to spend hours reading it. I want you to go off and read "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" instead and I can't help thinking every second you're not doing that, you're missing out.

This is a book of incredible power: it is beautifully almost poetically written, yet it is also very raw and personable. The plotline follows Hamlet, so you can guess vaguely what is going to happen, yet every page delivers a shock. As the denouement came ever closer I found myself reading more slowly, feeling sick with nerves.

Edgar, the protagonist, is a mute boy living in a closeknit family which breeds and trains dogs. The happy unit is blown apart by the sudden and shocking death of his father. As his uncle becomes ever closer to his mother, Edgar becomes more and more isolated. Upon his return, justice is served in a most unexpected fashion, no matter how well you know The Bard's story.

I will be buying this book for everyone I know. It left me breathless, tearful and overwhelmed; a real rollercoaster of a novel, the like of which I have not read in a long time. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By NeuroSplicer TOP 100 REVIEWER
David Wroblewski's debut novel is one that stays with you for a very long time. Built around a classic Hamletian scaffolding, it quickly acquires its own original character of a classic novel.

A mute boy, Edgar, is coming of age in a family that raises a special breed of highly intelligent dogs. The strained yet strangely idyllic balance between the uncommunicative boy and the overly communicative dogs soon shatters. Tragedy interlaced with mysteries come rushing in as the father dies and an uncle steps in his place.
When the father's apparitions seem to bring up murder and its investigation precipitates even more tragedy, Edgar runs away in the companion of his dogs...but I digress: I would not want to spoil it for anyone.

Beautiful prose, insightful descriptions of both human and canine emotions and a grasping story make this novel one that you too will greatly enjoy! As a bonus, if you already share your life with a dog, you will appreciate it more; if not, prepare to experience an intense urge to adopt one.

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too long, too slow 17 Oct 2008
By Bookish
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I was looking forward to reading this book because I like dogs, I like ghost stories and I also like a 'good long read', and this book promised me all three!

But I found it painfully slow going. It wasn't until about half way through that the story really picked up and by that time I was reading it with a attitude of grim determination ('I WILL finish this...') which isn't really the point of reading. I found the lengthy descriptions too overwhelming - probably because I have a good imagination and prefer not to have everything described to me!

Having said all that, David Wroblewski writes with depth and passion, and for some people this atmospheric, prosey novel will be a dream read (as many of the reviews here will testify). The story itself is intriguing and unusual: there's murder, ghosts, a boy running away with his special breed of dog (which, annoyingly, is the one thing that is never really described fully!) and fantastic characters - by the end of the book, I really felt I had met these people, understood them, and had lived their lives with them.

Reviewing books is always hard - it's so subjective - and I feel a bit mean giving this book only 3 stars. But I must be true to myself and say that, although it is beautifully written, it was too long and endlessly wordy for my tastes. I also felt a bit disappointed by the ending....
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Long - yes, slow - yes, but still brilliant 27 Jan 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have just finished reading this book and I feel emotionally wrenched. I wasn't sure what to make of it at first - the writing, while beautiful, is quite slow and ponderous and I wondered if I really needed to know so much about dog training, and yet something about the book compelled me to keep reading, and then about halfway through it compelled me so much that I've spent most of the last two or three days neglecting what I was supposed to be doing and immersing myself again in the world of Edgar Sawtelle. Wow - I'm sleepy because I stayed up late to read, and my house is less clean than it should be because I read instead of cleaning, and needless to say I haven't done any writing of my own for days, but sometimes your soul needs a break from the usual to be swept away by something great, which I believe this book is. As Henry (one of the rich tapestry of characters) would say, it's not ordinary.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why only 566 pages? 16 July 2008
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I don't really know what makes a 'Great American Novel' as judged by other reviewers. We all have completely different requirements but this particular book, in my view, comes close to being just such a novel.

It fits the bill in the traditional sense that it is certainly a long and eventful journey through the life of a disadvantaged boy growing up in the wilds of North America - with the added bonus of his three dogs around him. If you love dogs, then read this book but there is a great deal more. And it's this 'more' that makes the book.

That the writing is finely tuned, the characterisation keenly developed should be expected but the feeling of empathy the author manages to create with the reader is such that you find yourself immersed in this life - the happiness at one end of the emotional spectrum, the sadness at the other, so much so that, despite the 566 pages, before you've reached 500 you are wishing if only there were 500 more.

You can read about the detail of the story in the publisher's blurb. However, I don't rate Hamlet by way of any sort of comparison. This book stands on its own - with all the emotions a truly great author can engender. I urge you to buy the book and make the same journey as I just did. I'm sure you cannot possibly be disappointed.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 22 days ago by Mrs. A. S. MOUNCHER
5.0 out of 5 stars All dog lovers need to read this
As a dog lover I was sold on this book from page one, but there is a lot more to it than that. It is one of those books that is terribly hard to put down. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Charlotte
5.0 out of 5 stars A boy and his dogs
This book opened my eyes to the deep relationships between man and certain animals. How we condition them through breeding and training, and how they condition us through their... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Fly
5.0 out of 5 stars An intriguing book.
I was given this by a friend and was so impressed that I bought a copy to re-read in the future. I've never read a story quite like it and enjoyed it for many reasons but most of... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Mr. A. D. Perridge
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and accomplished take on Shakespeare
I enjoyed the Story of Edgar Sawtelle very much. It was leisurely, but interesting enough to keep the reader going through some of the slow bits. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Ava D. Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars disability and understanding
A very clear and insightful discussion of the relationship between man and dog and the relationship between man and man, with disability thrown in for good mix. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Mrs C C Topping
4.0 out of 5 stars Epic read
I was given this as an Ebook to read on my Kindle by a publisher. At first I was unsure as this is a long rambling book about a family of dog breeders in a remotish farm location... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Jude Smith
1.0 out of 5 stars story of edgar sawtelle
I enjoyed this book in the first half it was a story and the charactors were good but I felt the story ended badly , I was left disappointed , colleen lomas
Published 14 months ago by colleen
3.0 out of 5 stars Too many words.....
This was a reading group choice - so probably not a book I would have picked normally. "It's Hamlet with dogs - you will love it!" I was assured. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Wynne Kelly
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant book
It is based on the story of Hamlet set in a farm for dog breeders! I know it sounds weird but it is beautifully written and is for everyone not just dog lovers. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Mel F Lewis
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