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4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 13 August 2010
Not only is this a delightful picture book story for younger children, but grown-ups who love books about books will love this one too (especially booksellers!). Dog Loves Books is an appealing story, encouraging young children to read and share books and stories and Dog himself is a charmingly drawn and lovable character. Dog loves books so much he decides to open a bookshop and although he meets with a few set-backs he doesn't let these worry him, because when Dog has books all around him he is never short of friends or adventures. Highly recommended - 5 Stars *****.
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In this relentlessly domestic novel about a failed marriage, Louise Erdrich changes her focus from grand themes and the on-going history of Native American cultures to a microscopic analysis of the interactions of two people who have failed, not just in their marriage, but in virtually all their other relationships. Gil, a well-recognized, almost-great artist, is thirteen years older than Irene, who had been his student and model. Devoting virtually his entire career to paintings of Irene, he has depicted her from her almost-innocent twenties to her present life as a heavy-drinking mother of three who despises him for dominating and controlling every aspect of her life.

Living in a three-story house in metropolitan Minneapolis, Gil and Irene lead a comfortable life, their three children all in private schools, and Irene with enough time to work on a new PhD thesis, this one on George Catlin, the American artist who traveled the west in the 1830s and 1840s making portraits of Native Americans from as many tribes as he could find. Irene is three-quarters Native American; Gil is 1/4 at most, yet both consider themselves Native Americans. Both have grown up in families without fathers, in homes which have not stressed their culture, and neither seems to have developed any inner resources or community ties to help deal with the crises they face on a daily basis in their crumbling marriage.

When Irene discovers that Gil has been reading the Red Diary she keeps in a file cabinet in her basement office, further proof of his need to control, she decides to take revenge, deliberately fabricating stories to shock and hurt Gil. She also opens a safety deposit box in town and makes regular trips to it to write the truth in a Blue Notebook that she has deposited there. As the point of view rotates from the Red Diary through the Blue Notebook to the dramatic observations of a third person, the intensity of the conflict escalates, eventually revealing such personal nastiness that the reader begins to feel uncomfortable, almost voyeuristic.

Erdrich, as always, includes motifs and patterns throughout the novel which add to its significance, and here the use of shadow is pervasive. In the most obvious shadow symbolism, the family spends a moonlit night outside in the snow playing shadow tag. The lack of shadows is symbolic in the conclusion. Whereas many other Erdrich novels soar with theme, this novel is firmly grounded in domestic torments, created with such emotional intensity that I could not help wondering about the extent to which this novel is autobiographical. The novel is hard to read, almost too personal, too open, and as the conflicts develop and emotions run high, the reader is constantly aware that there are many possibilities for ending the novel and resolving the difficulties in this marriage and family. Erdrich's choice of conclusion will disappoint many readers. Mary Whipple
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As a three year old I understand trucks, fuzzy bunnies, balloons, trains, and talking silly chickens. I have more of a problem with inventory control at a bookstore in a poor foot traffic location.

I also have a problem with books that bully me and hector me or try to sell me on the importance of books, and the wonder of books, and the excitement of books, and the great smell of books, without being a particularly good book. Eat your spinach; brush your teeth; love books. Got it. Rather, just put a bunch of neat books out and I'll figure out the importance, wonder and excitement for myself.

I don't mean to sound so nasty, (the illustrations are charming, the intentions are certainly good), but, despite my honest effort, I have not made it all the way to the end of this book with any of my grandchildren. Each one has wiggled out of my lap about half way through, and then returned with a book to be read that he or she actually likes. And the fact that this book doesn't seem to fully engage kids is, after all, the most important point.
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on 13 July 2010
I have been a fan of Louise Erdrich's work since reading 'Tracks' shortly after it was published many years ago. Given the subject matter of this book I felt somewhat cautious about it as it seemed such a departure from her usual territory so to speak.

Some reviewers of her other books have described how her prose is so intense at times that you cannot read too much of it at one sitting. I readily agree and find myself in the same category of readers. I was surprised therefore when I got through this book far more quickly than I usually do with her books. But that is not meant in any way as a criticism. The writing is of a much different kind I think in this book. The emotional intensity of the story propels you through the book. It's almost as if there is a voyeuristic quality to it at times and you feel as though this is subject matter far too personal to be 'let in on'. You are left in no doubt by the end of it that, at the very least, some of the events portrayed have to be autobiographical. Neither the husband or wife emerges from this story with much dignity as they are both burdened with top-end character flaws. The damage they inflict on each other is multi-faceted and unrelenting at times. At no point did I feel that my sympathies lay with one or the other of them. But for all that, at a very deep level their love for each other manages to shine through but never actually saves them.

Erdrich also manages to clearly show the effects of domestic abuse on the children involved and she does this in a very simple an un-dramatic way. There is a very moving scene about a third of the way into the book where she describes how the children react when they hear their parents fighting. The description is very very simply done but intensely powerful at the same time.

So, if you are an Erdrich fan buy this book and don't worry about the fact that she is heading into different territory. The subject matter may be different but there is no diminution in the quality of her writing. Very highly recommended
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on 17 January 2011
I can reccommend this book wholeheartedly to grandparents, their own home-copy for visiting grandchildren. Forget stick men and those simplified drawings that dont challenge children, these characters are full of nuance and animation. Delighted to find Louise Yates' latest book, 'Dog Loves Books' has all the qualities of her first 'A small surprise', with gentle humour in word and image. It was the book I gave to all my grand-parent friends this Christmas in fact.
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on 6 November 2011
A beautiful, disturbing masterpiece! A welcome break from her usual stories, yet still full of insightful perceptions and wonderful prose which takes the reader to a different level. Neither of the main characters are sympathetic or endearing but her portrayal of the children (and of course the dogs) is both moving and heartwrenching. This is a very sad and somewhat morbid tale, yet as always Erdrich draws you into their world and makes you an integral part of the catastrophe that is their marriage. I couldn't decide who I despised more, the abusive, self-indulgent husband or the drunken, pathetic, cruel wife but I couldn't put it down and in spite of everything which had gone before, I found myself stunned and shocked by her ending.
If you like really first class writing and excellent storytelling, you can't help but be impressed by this novel.
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on 2 May 2013
A good writer, a clever writer, but a little too self-indulgently and self-consciously clever. All such reviews are necessarily subjective, and my response may be more of a tribute than a serious criticism, but I cannot understand why anyone would wish to read anything which wallows to such an extent in dysfunction, debasement, and betrayal with absolutely no sympathetic characters, and no discernible suggestion of redemption.I would have abandoned it within a few chapters had it not been required reading for a Book Club, and I did not change my mind thereafter. The Book Club was divided in its opinion!
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on 18 August 2010
A beautiful and charming book- my current top favourite present for new babies, as you can never start too early and the parents love it. Wonderful and charming drawings and should become a classic!
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You have a young reader that wants an adventure? You have a young reader who has yet to learn the sheer love of books. Well use this book by Louise Yates to encourage their enjoyment. Not only do you get a loveable character but one who's sheer joy will enthuse the reader and get them into enjoying not only this story but future offerings from this author. Its quirky, its fun but above all it's a tale that will literally make you fall in love with books.
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on 28 August 2013
Not as much content as Dog loves Drawing but I bought this one to go with it. It's still a fun read & most importantly, my daughter likes it.
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