The Dogs of Littlefield Hardcover – 5 Dec 2013
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Berne takes the domestic and turns it into the majestic (Sunday Telegraph)
A very well-written novel: clean, delicate, both devastating and funny in its well-chosen detail . . . it's insightful, too, with a clearly original mind behind it. Highly recommended (Daily Mail)
As astute in her observations of contemporary culture as she is in capturing the minutiae of longing, disappointment and loss (Sunday Times)
This funny novels explores the flaws of a perfect neighbourhood with a bizarre killer on the loose (Psychologies)
A compelling novel that examines life, love and loss with a cynical but insightful world view. Original and brilliant (Sunday Mirror)
A beautifully balanced and accomplished portrayal of the glue that binds families together, despite themselves, as well as the forces that tear them asunder. Superb (Mail on Sunday on The Ghost at the Table)
This ambitious account of a sudden coming of age reminded me strongly of To Kill A Mockingbird - and is very bit as moving and satisfying (Daily Telegraph on A Crime in the Neighbourhood)
It is impossible not to be completely swept along . . . Berne's vision is gently humorous, ironic, quirky . . . and she writes with such piercing sensitivity . . . a compelling debut novel (The Times on A Crime in the Neighbourhood)
About the Author
Suzanne Berne's first novel, A Crime in the Neighbourhood, won the 1999 Orange Prize. She is also the author of A Perfect Arrangement, The Ghost at the Table and Missing Lucile. Suzanne Berne lives with her husband and two daughters near Boston.
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Top Customer Reviews
Much of this book revolves around a couple; Margaret and Bill Downing and their only daughter, Julia. When we first meet Margaret she comes across a poisoned dog in the park, belonging to author George Wechsler. George has recently separated from his wife, while Margaret and Bill are having marital problems. Not only do many therapists live in Littlefield, but many of the town’s inhabitants turn to them for advice. However, it does not seem to be helping the Downing’s too much – Bill is depressed, Julia is bullied and lacks confidence, while Margaret feels as though she is teetering on the edge of a cliff.
Littlefield is experiencing another issue, which Clarice did not anticipate. Dog owners had proposed that a local park become a ‘leash free’ zone and it’s use is hotly contested by different factions. At first there are anti-dog signs and then dogs begin to be poisoned. Fear and suspicion erupts in the community and Clarice is there, documenting how people react to events. We follow the inhabitants of Littlefield over time – through their affairs, marital difficulties, problems with their children, their neighbours and themselves. As always, people find problems in any situation, whether they are successful or not and this is an interesting dissection of a community, with all its faults and triumphs.
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.
There isn't one particular main character, rather the book follows a selection of residents of Littlefield, a well off "village"/Suburb that has a scary number of psychoanalysts practicing - so I guess everything is a problem there! There is so local disagreement over whether dogs should be allowed off the leash at the park, or whether they should even get their own free run field... and then there are angry notices pinned up asking people to deal with their dogs; and then dogs start being poisoned... I suppose the dogs are an extension of this idealised idea of what your life is supposed to be like and what you're supposed to aspire to - your own home, car, partner, dog, 2.5 kids. Doesn't always work out that way, and a few families in the tale break apart. But then people are always looking for something more, and in such comfortable times, the dissatisfaction comes out as worrying over little things, or getting bored with one's wife because she's no longer new, and having affairs. Mixed in with all of this, the town gets a new residence for a year - Dr Clarice Watkins.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book belongs to a genre I think of as 'first world angst'. It documents the lives of affluent, apparently successful people, and demonstrates that despite (maybe even because... Read morePublished 2 months ago by BookWorm
Utter waste of my time to read it. I limped to the end and really wish I'd given up about 2 chapters in. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Amy
I hated this book. It was deadly boring. The characters were like caricatures.The topic of how the people of Littlefield ;lived in a perfect communituy brings a sociologist to... Read morePublished on 7 Feb. 2014 by Linda Reck
I was a bit apprehensive to read this; a book about dogs being poisoned didn't really fill me with joy but to be honest, the poisoning of the dogs played a very minor part in the... Read morePublished on 3 Feb. 2014 by Lorna
Who is poisoning the dogs of Littlefield, a seemingly comfortable middle class village in Massachusetts? Read morePublished on 29 Jan. 2014 by J. H. Bretts
I received an advance reading copy of The Dogs of Littlefield. The blurb really caught my attention: the thought that something darker could be underlying the problems in the... Read morePublished on 15 Jan. 2014 by Caitlin M Stewart