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Customer Review

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Lost Cause, 30 Nov. 2008
This review is from: The Lost Dog (Hardcover)
The Lost Dog is a lost cause.

The novel does paint some brilliant scenes, bit in the Australian outback and in Mangalore, but is too disjointed to carry it through into an interesting read. There are too many characters and it is difficult to tell them apart. This isn't helped by zipping back across time and oceans at the mention of a trigger word or the appearance of a trigger image.

Within the novel, there are four strands (at least), that don't quite come together: (1) Tom's lost dog; (2)Nelly's lost husband; (3) Tom's mother's infirmity; and (4) Tom and Nelly's budding romance. On top of this, there are various backstories, and it just a sea of confusion. And with a tendency to overwrite, Michelle de Kretser adds to the fog. In the end, it is actually hard to understand the resolutions to some of the stories because they are left artily obscure. But that's a technique that is frustrating even at the end of a strong and clear narrative, but when it is used at the end of obscure and, frankly, rather dull plot lines it is pretty unforgivable. Yes, I've said it now: it's boring.

This feels like a novel by a writer who can write well, but has been encouraged to play up the artiness - the book is even about artists, for heaven's sake - but lacks the spontaneity to make it work. It feels rather emulative of Peter Carey's Theft, but without the intrigue to make the obscurity work.

The Booker longlisting will, I fear, encourage a reprise of this style. But I suspect it wasn't the plot or the prose that attracted the Booker panel, but rather the voguish name-dropping of Henry James.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 22 Jun 2009 22:15:14 BDT
I whole-heartedly agree with this review, there's some occassionally brilliant writing but it's buried beneath a sketchy narrative. The last chapter closes seemingly without a clear conclusion which wouldn't be so bad if it hadn't been leading to one for the previous 280 pages. Approach with caution.

Posted on 8 Sep 2009 11:08:41 BDT
Tamara L says:
I can see where this reviewer is coming from. I finished this book yesterday and am still in the process of mulling it over. There are some confusing characters who don't seem to earn their place in the book. What was the point of Osman and why were we supposed to care when he died? It did seem a bit self-consciously arty and perhaps long-drawn out. Despite all this, the book has a haunting quality about it. I couldn't get it out of my head when I woke up this morning. I felt it was astonishingly good and the writer capable of absolute brilliance. If you are wavering about whether to read it or not I would definitely give it the benefit of the doubt. When this writer breaks into the literary canon you can feel smug that you already knew who she was. I am now going to order the Hamilton Case and will be looking out for anything she writes in the future.

Posted on 25 Oct 2009 21:38:32 GMT
marymary says:
I agree. I almost gave up with the book at at the beginning but perservered as I had nothing else to read. I like the poetic style but found it confusing. I finished the book feeling confused and thought about reading it again but frankly I can't face it.

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Oct 2013 21:31:22 BDT
hfffoman says:
Excellent review. Thanks
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Review Details

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Reviewer

MisterHobgoblin
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   

Location: Melbourne

Top Reviewer Ranking: 293