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The Lost Dog Hardcover – April 28, 2008

11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

De Kretser (The Hamilton Case) presents an intimate and subtle look at Tom Loxley, a well-intentioned but solipsistic Henry James scholar and childless divorcé, as he searches for his missing dog in the Australian bush. While the overarching story follows Tom's search during a little over a week in November 2001, flashbacks reveal Tom's infatuation with Nelly Zhang, an artist tainted by scandal—from her controversial paintings to the disappearance and presumed murder of her husband, Felix, a bond trader who got into some shady dealings. As Tom puts the finishing touches on his book about James and the uncanny and searches for his dog, de Kretser fleshes out Tom's obsession with Nelly—from the connection he feels to her incendiary paintings (one exhibition was dubbed Nelly's Nasties in the press) to the sleuthing about her past that he's done under scholarly pretenses. Things progress rapidly, with a few unexpected turns thrown in as Tom and Nelly get together, the murky circumstances surrounding Felix's disappearance are (somewhat) cleared up and the matter of the missing dog is settled. De Kretser's unadorned, direct sentences illustrate her characters' flaws and desires, and she does an admirable job of illuminating how life and art overlap in the 21st century. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

De Kretser (The Hamilton Case, 2004) renders prose that’s spare and sublime. It’s too bad the protagonist of her third novel is such a self-absorbed bore. Tom Loxley, a divorced professor living in Australia, spends his days dwelling on life’s minutia. This even includes his personal scent (“varnished wood with a bass note of cumin,” notes Tom, the same aroma as his late father). So when his dog goes missing in the Australian bush, it leads to endless rumination about what might have transpired. Some distraction is provided by Tom’s friend, Nelly, an eccentric painter whose life has the whiff of scandal (her husband disappeared under suspicious circumstances). Also of concern is Tom’s mother, Iris, a once-indomitable woman quickly withering with age. Tom’s scholarly pursuits (he’s writing a book on Henry James) are often upstaged by carnal preoccupations (namely, lust for Nelly, who repeatedly refuses his advances). And then there’s the matter of the dog. The mystery surrounding Nelly is by far the most interesting part of a book that sags under the weight of Tom’s tedious ways. --Allison Block

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; First Edition edition (April 28, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031600183X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316001830
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,153,395 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By KEM44 on July 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The Hamilton Case is one of my favorite books, and The Lost Dog had enough faint traces of what was so captivating about that book that I found it completely maddening to read. The author weaves into a bland and vague love story endless ruminations of visual art, with which she has apparently become captivated. There are glimpses of the brilliance of The Hamilton Case, but overall it is insanely boring to read, and the expression "dancing about architecture" kept popping into my mind as I waded through this thing. I think the author may have suspected as much herself, hence the dog. The only reason I stuck with this book was a ridiculous compulsion to know if the poor thing turned up. I can't help but think that was the point of his disappearance, to manipulate us to endure page after page of undeveloped and unlikable characters and their feelings about a world of self-absorbed pretension. In my case, it worked, but although I made it to the end, I have rarely finished a book with such a feeling of disgust.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Lisa R on May 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The latest novel by Michelle de Kretser, The Lost Dog, is a story about life, the modern world, and its imperfections. It is part love story, part mystery, and also a social commentary of the modern world. Its origins lie in an incident familiar to de Kretser, as in 2001, her dog, Gus went missing while staying at a farm.
In our story, Tom Loxley is a professor writing a book on Henry James. He takes his dog with him to a small "cabin" in the Australian outback to focus on finishing the project that he seems incapable of completing. The retreat is owned by Nellie Zhang, a semi-famous artist who has a past that is questionable, and that slowly unfolds to the reader throughout the book. Tom's emotional and physical attractions to Nellie comprise one of the main storylines of The Lost Dog.
Several other plotlines are present in the novel, including the story of the search for the dog. The past lives of Tom, Nellie, and Tom's mother are all woven together to provide the framework of de Kretser's story.
Michelle de Kretser is an author who was born in Sri Lanka and immigrated to Australia at the age of 14. The immigrant experience serves as a touchstone for several of the themes present in the novel. Important themes that are explored are the modern world, progress, aging, art, and family.
The thing that is most impressive about de Kretser's writing is her use of the metaphor. A description of Tom's father is one example: "He was an umbrella, tightly furled. Springing open, he might gouge flesh from your fingers."
The author is much-praised for her writing style. Her second novel, The Hamilton Case, received the Commonwealth Writers' Prize (a recognition for the South East Asia and South Pacific region). Her prose is masterful , and the novel well crafted.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By S. Retten on January 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I found this book tiresome and annoying. The only interesting relationship is that between Tom and his dog, and even that one goes around and around endlessly in a kind of fog. Poor Tom is so static and ineffectual he gets on one's nerves--sort of like all those pathetic Henry James non-heroes who are paralyzed by timidity, guilt and endless belly-button contemplation. And Nelly, with her outlandish clothing and incomprehensible behavior, never becomes the least bit sympathetic or believable as a person.

But the most annoying thing of all is the self-consciously clever use of language, including metaphors that are so strange that they slow the book down immeasurably while the poor reader tries to figure them out. This is "sensibility" raised to the point of the ridiculous. The only reason I read it is that I didn't have anything else to read at the moment.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Grattan VINE VOICE on July 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The dog of Tom Loxley, a writer and professor, breaks away when a wallaby crosses the path in the Australian bush where Tom has taken a weekend to use a friend's, Nelly Zhang, rural shack to complete a book on Henry James. However, the loss of a dog is more of a metaphor for the constant search in the book for the meaning of life, modernity, and the past.

Tom of English and Indian parents arrived in Australia as a teenager and Nelly is a descendant of several nationalities, including Asian. The mixed ethnicity is not without its discomforts to them both. Tom becomes infatuated with Nelly over her highly unique artistic talents combining painting and photography. But she is mostly an enigma to Tom - her past is hazy and contributes to Tom's frequent invoking of his Indian childhood.

The plot elements are few. Beyond searching for the dog, the sudden and suspicious disappearance of Nelly's stockbroker husband many years before occupies Tom. Both the dog search and the constant return to Tom's India become tiresome. The plot serves more as a mechanism for the author to issue a series of keen observations on life, some delivered by the characters, and some through the narrator. The bouncing around among locales and time frames makes the reading a bit of a struggle. Perhaps, the smartness of the book slightly outweighs its obscurity.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Borree on March 3, 2010
Format: Paperback
If you enjoy A.S. Byatt's books, you may enjoy this book. It is richly themed and multi-faceted in characterization, action and ideas. I appreciated how incidences and characters inter-act and effect each other. I also appreciated that some story lines were not tied up nicely and solved.

I enjoyed the writing, the presentation of the art world, and the adherence to Henry James' quote that "the whole of anything cannot be told."

As an artist, I chuckled and then gave much thought to the fact that Nelly --the artist-- was selling photographed paintings rather than the real thing. I don't think that the author just threw this in as an interesting are story. It has meaning in both plot and themes.

I was only bored by the author's over wrought presentation of feces.
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