Customer Review

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bringing a bit of bite to the 'burbs., 20 Dec. 2013
This review is from: The Dogs of Littlefield (Hardcover)
This is an unusual book. At first, the reader assumes it to be an ordinary story about middle-class life in an orderly, well-to-do town in Massachusetts. But at its heart, there are deeper, more disturbing undercurrents. A disproportionate number of the residents are psychologists, for one thing. Then there is the rancorous division in the town over whether dogs should be allowed off their leads in the park, a controversy that has come to a head after a spate of mysterious dog-poisonings in the area.

Suzanne Berne uses this unsettling phenomenon to examine the lives of the dog-owners, particularly the sad haunted Margaret, her acutely depressed husband Bill and their daughter Julia, morose beyond the usual range of teenagerhood. Rather interestingly, the author introduces a 'chorus' into the proceedings in the shape of Dr Clarice Watkins, an eccentrically-dressed professor of socio-cultural anthropology, who has come to the town - ironically enough - to research into 'good quality of life'. As things pan out, the place is not quite what she expected.

There's some excellent descriptive writing here: "[Bill] felt suspended within that greenish light, surrounded by a sweet lucid membrane, like being inside a grape." Also sufficient wry humour to leaven some of the more downbeat elements of this book. But as Ms Berne explores the melancholy of her characters and seems on the verge of revealing the underlying causes or saying something very profound about life's disappointments, she draws back and leaves many issues unresolved. Having invested in these people during the course of the book, I felt I was left hanging. And, like Littlefield, that's not a comfortable place to be.
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