Even the Dogs – Jon McGregor

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I have seen a few people raving about this book, describing it as their favourite of the year so far and a certainty for the Booker short list. I can’t ignore comments like that and so reserved a copy from my local library.

Even the Dogs is certainly an original novel. Written mainly from the first person plural point-of-view and often with a stream of consciousness flow of words, it has a distinctive style:

We stand together in the hallway, uncertainly. We can hear the two policemen talking outside, the crackle and mutter of their radios. We can hear footsteps moving around upstairs, and someone laughing.

Even the Dogs has a dark theme, focusing on drug addicts, alcoholics and the homeless. The book begins with the discovery of Robert’s dead body and the simple plot describes the events leading up to his death.  From a distance we see how he became an alcoholic, opened his home up to drug addicts and eventually lost his life.

This book is packed with graphic descriptions, swear words and misery. I know this will not appeal to a lot of people, but I found it to be a compulsive read. It is quite short (less than 200 pages), but it is an impressive description of a wasted life.

I prefer books with a more complex plot, but as a snapshot of the lives of these people I can’t fault it.

Do you think this will make it onto the Booker long list this year?


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26 Comments

  1. I hadn’t heard of this book before. I have to say it sounds intriguing, but just because I’ve never read any books written in the second-person plural. It might be worth checking out, just to see how this style of narrating actually works. And the facts that it’s quite short and you gave it a four-star rating might be selling points as well. :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Susi, I haven’t read anything in the second person plural either. I’m not sure I’d be rushing out to read another, but as a one off it was an interesting exercise.

  2. JoAnn says:

    If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things introduced me to McGregor – very unusual and well done. I’d like to read this one eventually, too. Thanks for the review!

    1. Jackie says:

      JoAnn, I own Remarkable Things, but haven’t read it yet. I’ll read it at some point as I do like unusual!

  3. Jenny says:

    Sounds mighty grim, which I do not necessarily enjoy, and I hate stream-of-consciousness narration. Long list or no, I’m steering clear!

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenny, I think you might be right to avoid this if you aren’t a fan of stream-of-consciousness narration!

  4. Amy says:

    I, too, prefer more complex plots, but it sounds interesting!

    1. Jackie says:

      Amy, It is short enough to get away with it!

  5. FleurFisher says:

    I’m glad you liked this – if that is the word for such dark subject matter. My feelings on the Booker prize is that I will be astounded if it isn’t on the longlist and fully expect it to be on the shortlist. I don’t expect it to win against bigger noisier books, but I hope that McGregor will win one day.

    1. Jackie says:

      FleurFisher, I agree that this book should make the short list. I don’t think that it will win (David Mitchell deserves to this year) but can see a year in the future when the prize goes to McGregor.

  6. Sandy says:

    I’m really not against a simple, straightforward plot. You can’t tax your brain with every book you read.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, I agree! This book does stretch the brain in a few places though.

  7. Iris says:

    I’m not sure if dark themes would work for me, but it does sound like a book that’s made an impression. I had never heard of it before your review.

    1. Jackie says:

      Iris, It is good to know that I introduced you to a new book. At least now when the Booker long list is announced you can at least say you’ve heard of this one :-)

  8. Stujallen says:

    i lik,e stream of conscioness works ,had seen this got well reviewed as for booker its going to be a tough year lot of booker winners with books and some great new talent on the block so to speak i still think it’ll be more male shortlist this year some great debuts and new writers ross rasin helen dunmore may be two outsiders

    1. Jackie says:

      Stu, I’ll be really interested to see what makes the list this year. There are some very strong contenders out there!

  9. Kathleen says:

    I seem to read my share of books like this at times so this would probably appeal to me. However, I seem to struggle with the stream of consciousness style at times so I’m not sure. By the way I picked up the Littrell book at my library last week. I had no idea is was so big so I’m not sure I will have time to read it this time before it is due but at least I have the intention…

    1. Jackie says:

      Kathleen, It is good to know that you picked up The Kindly Ones. I hope that you manage to make your way through it at some point.

  10. Bina says:

    Certainly sounds interesting. I love narratives in the second person singular so I think I might just like the plural version as well.

    1. Jackie says:

      Bina, I’m not sure I’m a big fan of this perspective, but it is interesting to try once.

  11. Jenners says:

    Finally … one that I actually read!!! I thought this was a tough read but ultimately rewarding. The author (very kindly) wrote to me after my review and offered me a link to help readers out and I wished I’d had it before I read it. I don’t think it is for everybody but I think it is worth the effort!

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenners, Thanks for pointing out that link. I found it:

      http://www.jonmcgregor.com/books/even-the-dogs/background/

      very interesting. He sounds like a lovely man :-)

  12. Priscilla says:

    I don’t know if it will make the longlist, but I know that I have wanted to read this since the first moment I read the description sometime last winter. I’m happy to see that you enjoyed it. Hope you are enjoying your holiday!

    1. Jackie says:

      Priscilla, I had a good holiday – thanks!

      I hope that you like this book if you decide to read it.

  13. John Self says:

    A tiny point of pedantry: the narrative is not second person plural but first person plural (“We…”). Second person would be written “You…” That’s quite rare too, but seen occasionally in books like Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City (“You are not the sort of person who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning”), Ron Butlin’s The Sound of My Voice (“You are thirty-four years old and already two-thirds destroyed”), or parts of Iain Banks’ Complicity.

    I didn’t like the book as much as you did, Jackie, but it’s nice to find someone who didn’t absolutely adore it either, as most others seem to have!

    1. Jackie says:

      John Self, Thanks for pointing out my stupid mistake – corrected now!

      You are the first person I’ve seen who didn’t enjoy it, but I’m sure you won’t be the last. It has been a few months since I read it and I am beginning to forget what it was that I loved about it. I’m just remembering the miserable nature of it now – It isn’t one I’ll be actively encouraging people to read.

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