Jan 1, 2008

Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones and Four-Legged Friends Challenge Wrap-up

Dogsbody is the story of Sirius, the powerful and immortal Lord of the Dog Star. He is wrongly accused of murder, and convicted to incarnating in the body of a newborn puppy in a little planet called Earth. Somebody tries to drown him and his puppy siblings only a few days after they are born. Fortunately, Sirius is rescued by a kind girl named Kathleen, whose family lets her keep him in excuse of her doing all the housework from then on. As Sirius grows up, he starts remembering more and more about his life before he became a puppy, and he realizes that he has a mission: to recover a strange object called a Zoi that fell to the Earth at around the same time as he was banished.

Why do I love Diana Wynne Jones so much? There are several reasons, and this book exemplifies them all. First of all, I love her original and exquisite plots, in which every thread comes together perfectly at the end, and even the most perceptive of readers is often surprised. In this book, she creates a world in which astral bodies are alive, and, just like human beings, experience conflicts, jealousy and passion, and often make mistakes.

Secondly, and even more importantly, I love her brilliant characterization. Sirius is a great character. When he is young, before he realizes that he is in fact a very powerful being and not just a helpless puppy, the book perfectly describes what the workings of a canine mind must be like. Then, of course, there are the human characters. Kathleen is Irish, and she is living with her uncle and his family because her father is in jail due to connections with the IRA. Kathleen is often taunted for being Irish, both by her cousins and aunt at home and by classmates at school. Her aunt, Duffie, constantly treats her harshly and unfairly, and Kathleen holds on to the hope that her father will be released from jail and take her and Sirius (or Leo, as she named him) home to Ireland.

Which brings me to reason number three. In this book, Diana Wynne Jones tells an adventurous, suspenseful and often humorous fantasy story, which, like the best fantasy, also deals with very real and very relevant human issues. The characters, their relationships and their emotions are very real, and they turn this tale into a complex one with more going on than you would guess at first glance. And at the same time, the story never ceases to be fun. This is something Diana Wynne Jones almost always does with her books, and it is why I don't think I will ever tire of reading them.

Other Blog Reviews:
Words by Annie
Jenny's Books

This was my last read for Kailana's Four-Legged Friends Challenge. This challenge was a special one. It was a way for Kailana to pay tribute to her deceased dog, Sandy, and also a way for all of us with four-legged friends, living or gone, to pay our own tribute to them.

Books completed:
Best book I read for the challenge?
I think it's a tie between The Tale of Despereaux and Watership Down.

Book I could've done without?
None. I enjoyed them all.

Any new authors? Will I read them again?
All were new to me except Diana Wynne Jones. I think I'll
eventually read more books by all of them, but the ones whose work I'm most anxious to explore further are Richard Adams and Kate DiCamillo.

Best thing about the challenge?
One of my favourite things about the challenge was the fact that Kailana invited all the participants to write a post about the animals that most touched their lives. Reading everyone's posts was wonderful.


  1. Ok. This settles it. I must read something by Diana Wynne Jones this year! Great review.

    Happy New Year!!

  2. I almost got that book from Paper Back Swap, but at the last minute the person who had it realized she couldn't find it. It sounds really good!


  3. I'm with Stephanie...I definitely need to give her a try soon. I think Annie has a book or two of hers, so I'll be off to raid her bookshelves again.

  4. Thanks for the Cornelia Funke book and chocolates! I got it on Christmas Eve but haven't had time to post since then since I've been out of town. Thanks for the contest and for the wonderful package! :-)

  5. I am looking forward to reading Fire and Hemlock even more this year. You should try and find time to read The Outlaw Varjak Paw this year to complete the series as it stands.

  6. Stephanie: Happy New Year for you too! And I'm glad that you are reading her. I recommend "Fire and Hemlock" to start with - my favourite book by her, and one of my top 5 favourite books ever!

    Annie: I hope you get another chance to read this one soon! I definitely think you'd enjoy it.

    Debi: yay, I'm glad you're reading her! Which ones does Annie have?

    Em: How nice that it arrived on Christmas Eve! I'm glad you liked it!

    Rhinoa: I definitely plan on getting The Outlaw Varjak Paw at some point. I can't wait to see how you like Fire and Hemlock.

  7. This is the first book by DWJ that I ever read (and I read it as a kid, when it first came out), and from then I was hooked! I enjoyed revisiting the book through your review, and I so agree with you about the amazing way she concocts these intensely creative plots and weaves everything together so seamlessly and surprisingly! I reread her books regularly and I get VERY excited when she comes out with a new one.


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