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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant, unique novel that will touch the heart and soul
The Dogs of Babel is one of the more remarkable debut novels of recent memory, a story with a fascinating premise that engulfed me in a beautifully tragic exploration of grief and the very human search for meaning in life and death. When I saw that the book involved a man trying to teach a dog to talk, I had to check it out. There's a good reason why Paul Iverson wants...
Published on 25 Oct 2005 by Daniel Jolley

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3.0 out of 5 stars Great up to Page 200, then what a Lousy Ending
The premise of this story is so intriguing. Paul Iverson's wife, Lexy, is killed in a fall, and the only witness is their dog, Lorelei. He is a linguist, as it happens, and sets out to teach Lorelei to speak so that she can tell him what happened to Lexy.

So far, fascinating. Lexy is an artistic, mercurial free spirit, and she has boatloads of issues. She is...
Published on 21 Mar 2009 by Graceann Macleod


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant, unique novel that will touch the heart and soul, 25 Oct 2005
By 
Daniel Jolley "darkgenius" (Shelby, North Carolina USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Dogs of Babel (Paperback)
The Dogs of Babel is one of the more remarkable debut novels of recent memory, a story with a fascinating premise that engulfed me in a beautifully tragic exploration of grief and the very human search for meaning in life and death. When I saw that the book involved a man trying to teach a dog to talk, I had to check it out. There's a good reason why Paul Iverson wants to teach his dog Lorelai to communicate with him - the dog is the only witness to his wife's extremely peculiar death. Life seemed normal for Paul and his wife Lexy, until the day Lexy fell to her death from the top of an apple tree in the backyard. The death was ruled an accident, but Paul is thrown for a loop by the tragedy and seeks answers to many questions. Why would his wife have climbed the tree in the first place? Was it really an accident, or did she kill herself? What did he do wrong? Was her death somehow his fault? And why did she leave behind several strange incongruities in the house on the morning before she died. Paul's bookshelf, for example, had been rearranged. There has to be meaning in these things, Paul believes. The only possible source for answers is Lorelai, the dog that belonged to Lexy even before they were married. She had been there in the yard, she had seen what happened, and maybe he could figure out a way to learn what Lorelai saw that awful day.
Paul is a linguist by profession, and he gets the idea of trying to teach his dog how to talk; he even manages to make his mad idea into a bonafide project of his academic pursuits - even though his colleagues come to think that his wife's death has thrown him off his rocker. As the story progresses, we get to know Lexy through Paul's vivid memories of his time with her. She was what you might call a free spirit, the kind of woman who talks Paul into driving to Disneyland on their first date (which ends up lasting a full week). An artist by nature and profession, Lexy clearly saw the world in a unique way, and we can see why Paul fell in love with her so deeply. It becomes ever more apparent, though, that Lexy's oversensitive nature was quite fragile and that she harbored some pretty dark and possibly debilitating inner demons. It makes for a most tragic examination of the life of Paul and Lexy and casts an ever darker pall on the tragedy of her death.
Paul's attempts to enable Lorelai to tell him what happened are also increasingly strange and disturbing. The flash cards, the attempts to associate words for things Lorelai can understand, even a special keyboard for hoped-for canine communication are understandable, but the documented case of a talking dog named Dog J and Paul's encounter with a group of people using radical surgery to enable dogs to make human sounds is pretty weird. As matters play out, it also adds an even greater weight of sorrow and remorse to the whole story.
This novel will have an emotional effect on most readers. You can't just put The Dogs of Babel away and never think about it again, as it will remain in your thoughts for some time. This voyeuristic look into Paul's emotional struggles with grief and the extraordinary way in which he seeks solace is quite touching and, at times, heart-wrenching. And there's not any real nugget of meaning to take away from the encounter. Knowing what happened doesn't necessarily explain what happened, nor does it necessarily bring peace or even cloture to the reader. It's really impossible to describe the emotional plateau this story plays out on; it's sad, wondrous, and quite unforgettable. Carolyn Parkhurst is a virtual literary poet who just so happens to write in a narrative framework - but I would argue that The Dogs of Babel is in fact a sort of poetry, for only poetry in its purest form can touch your heart and mind this deeply. This is a brilliant novel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Imaginative Story, 8 April 2006
By 
**** (Pleasant Hill, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Dogs of Babel (Paperback)
Admittedly it's a clever concept to attempt communication with a dog that was the only eyewitness to its owner's death. I had the same thought during the O.J. Simpson and Lacy Peterson trials: if only the dogs could talk, they could reveal the identities of the murderers. In this instance, it's widower Paul who decides to teach his dog Lorelei to speak. Lorelei was the only one present when Paul's wife died, and he has a compelling need to know if her death was accidental or a suicide.
I expected the story would be more of a forensic mystery with some actual scientific proof of a dog providing the solution. Instead, it is largely Paul's memoir of his marriage to Lexy, the love of his life despite her emotional highs and lows. As I progressed through the book I couldn't help thinking that if Lexy had received some treatment for depression or bi-polar disorder, there would have been no story to tell. However, this is not a pragmatic read but more of a fairy tale. The story is dense with symbolism involving masks, dreams, death, fables, mythology, and exquisite visual descriptions. All are testaments to the author's creativity and imagination.
As a memoir, it is by necessity written in first person past tense which lends the story a slightly stagnant quality. However, the story is stimulated by an unusual twist when Paul, desperate with grief and willing to try anything, attends a meeting of the Cerberus Society. It turns out to be a group of malevolent men who perform unspeakable scientific experiments on dogs to get them to speak garbled sounds - hence the title, "The Dogs of Babel". This portion of the story, although implausible, has dramatic tension and really creates a sense of apprehension about the outcome.
The story ultimately leads to the resolution of Paul's grief, as he progresses through the stages of mourning: shock, disbelief, grief, anger, and acceptance. Through it all Lorelei, a beautiful Rhodesian Ridgeback, demonstrates that love can be expressed in many ways.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing and poignant story, 24 Feb 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: The Dogs of Babel (Paperback)
I came across this book completely by chance, as I was searching for books with the word 'dog' in the title. This book is an intriguing story of discovery. A journey with a man who deeply loved his wife, uncovering the mystery of her death. Definitely a book for dog lovers too, as the dog character plays a central role to the husband's quest.
It is written in an elegant style which is very easy to read. The story is told mostly through flashbacks. It is a touching and moving story about the love between two people, and particularly an exploration of the darker side of a loving spouses' passionate yet fragile nature. It is a haunting and elegiac book, that exposes love's blindness to human flaws. I would highly recommend this book, as a 'moving' piece.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Great up to Page 200, then what a Lousy Ending, 21 Mar 2009
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This review is from: The Dogs of Babel (Hardcover)
The premise of this story is so intriguing. Paul Iverson's wife, Lexy, is killed in a fall, and the only witness is their dog, Lorelei. He is a linguist, as it happens, and sets out to teach Lorelei to speak so that she can tell him what happened to Lexy.

So far, fascinating. Lexy is an artistic, mercurial free spirit, and she has boatloads of issues. She is complex and three-dimensional. The story of their courtship and the beginning of their marriage is completely believable and moving.

Then we get to the final third.

By the time I reached the final chapters, I realized that only a nitwit like Paul would NOT get just what happened to Lexy on page one. He doesn't need the dog to tell him; the evidence surrounds the house and their lives. Also, the ending that was given to Lexy did not suit her artistic, creative spirit. It's as if Parkhurst just couldn't be bothered to use the creativity she had given Lexy to describe the ending of her life and the lessons she leaves for Paul. But then again, he's so thick that he'd have to have it in skywriting to understand.

Up to page 200, this was a five star read. I knew that the "teaching the dog to talk" gambit was only a leaping off point and that we would be seeing some soul-searching, with the dog, Lorelei, as the catalyst. Given the quality of the writing at the start, I expected more, but the author simply got lazy and rested on some handy cliches rather than original and deft writing. A shame, because this book could have been something truly special if she had stayed true to the quality present at the beginning. This is movie-of-the-week league stuff; predictable and annoying.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece, 3 Jun 2014
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Deborah (Jerusalem, Israel) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Dogs of Babel (Paperback)
This book is a true masterpiece. I cried over certain parts, something I don't think I have ever done in response to a book! What a story, what love, what cruelty is hidden in mankind's soul. Brilliant.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very beautiful book, 10 Mar 2014
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This review is from: The Dogs of Babel (Paperback)
It is actually my first english novel and I was completely fascinated by the beautiful but sad story. To me the charm of the book is that it accurately described when sometimes love is not enough. This book made mr think a lot alot
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The Dogs of Babel
The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst (Paperback - 7 Jun 2004)
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