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Dog Boy: A Novel Hardcover – March 18, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This gritty, richly imagined tale of an abandoned boy in a Moscow shantytown who comes to live with a pack of feral dogs more than lives up to its unlikely premise. Hornung (Fire, Fire, etc., written as Eva Sallis) tracks young Romochka's growth over two difficult years from a four-year-old whelp to a taut, street-smart alpha dog. The boy's evolution from tolerated outsider to trusted leader of this canine crew is believably portrayed, and Hornung capably draws a tawdry world of trash-pickers, beggars, and occasional friends. As he grows, so does his curiosity about the world of humans he has fled, leading to an inevitable collision when Romochka is captured by a scientist who wants to use him to further his career. Hornung knows how to wring emotion from a scene, making the bond between boy and dog deeply felt, while rarely running afoul of sentimentality. In her hands, this engrossing story becomes both an investigation into humanity and a vivid portrait of one of Russia's millions of lost children. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"Dog Boy is a tour de force of imaginative empathy. Eva Hornung is neither Russian nor canine but her deep engagement with languages, both human and animal, makes it possible for her to inhabit these utterly original characters on an almost molecular level. If The Story of Edgar Sawtelle convinced us that dogs have inner lives, Hornung reveals to us their very souls. This is a wonderful, intense and profoundly moving book from a writer of rare gifts."
-Geraldine Brooks, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of March and People of the Book

"Extraordinary...utterly compelling...In exploring what it might be like to be a dog from a human perspective, Dog Boy sheds much light on what it is like to be human."
-Yann Martel, author of The Life of Pi

"This book will grab you by the throat and not let go...a subtle meditation on humanity and what it means to be human."
--Donna Leon

"A wonderful novel, a tour de force, even...Prize-winning Australian author Eva Hornung opens up a Pandora's box, full of questions about our humanity, our dealings with other creatures and our sense of what is normal...Hornung pulls no punches in talking about life on the streets, for dogs or for humans...Dog Boy creates, in Romochka, a touchingly complex and credible dog boy - cunning, tender, angry, wild, strangely beautiful - as well as a wholly convincing study of how a feral dog pack works...a novel that is not only very moving, but also morally and philosophically urgent in its core concerns."
-The Guardian

"A modern Jungle Book - - a harsh look at human pack behavior."
-The Times

"[Romochka's] attempts to please the dogs are touching, imparted to us in a somber, precise language . . . This is an involving, careful book, marked out by a rare sympathy for the natural world."
-The Daily Telegraph

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; 1 edition (March 18, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670021490
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670021499
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #264,213 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Hope Dave Eggers doesn't mind me borrowing his title for my review; it's just so apt. Dog Boy reads quickly -- I consumed it in a single six-hour stretch, since I couldn't put it down. Reminded me, in many ways, of Call of the Wild. Emotionally wrenching and exhilarating, this novel will stay with you long after you've finished it. Buy it, borrow it, get it and read it now.

If you don't finish the final page with tears streaming down your cheeks and a sudden mad desire to adopt a pack of dogs, you and I didn't read the same book.
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Format: Hardcover
I read all books about dogs that I can find and this one knocked my socks off. Reality ,truth,grit,love,fear,;it is all here. I have no need to ever experiance a Russian winter as now I have lived one with this author's description of Moscow. It is a book that stays with you and is hard to put down...a history of the world of now.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The twin brothers Romulus and Remus, raised by a she-wolf, were the founders of Rome. Mowgli was the hero of Rudyard Kipling's `The Jungle Book`. Tarzan was "King of the Jungle." Stories of feral children raised by animals have a long tradition. We are fascinated by the freedom it promises, stories of survival, of man in a perfect Rousseauian natural state, but we are also repelled by the grotesque behavior and unsanitary conditions. Such as it is with Australian author Eva Hornung in `Dog Boy`, a realistic recreation of the true story of 4-year old Ivan Mishukov, who lived with a pack of wild dogs in Moscow for two years, surviving winters of -20 degrees with no heat or cooked food. Although a fictionalized treatment, it probably goes further at achieving the truth than journalism. We learn intimate details of living as a wild dog: the sense of existing in the moment from one meal to the next, of dangers from "Strangers" (foreign dogs outside the pack), marking territory, play, social hierarchies, mating and birthing behaviors, smell and memory. This is not a "talking animals" novel, it is not `Watership Down`, the dogs and people all act in recognizably realistic ways, it is not a fable like `Animal Farm`. By the novels close you have become like a dog, thinking and acting appropriately, the world of dogs opened. For that reason alone, it's a great book for dog owners or anyone wishing to better understand animal human relations. It also implicitly questions mans superiority over animals. A great read for anyone curious about feral children, the wild dogs of Moscow or animal/human relations.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I can't stop thinking about this book. It picked me up, made me cry, made me cringe, made me laugh, made me so happy I read it. The final scene often comes back to rattle my brains. We've all heard of dog boys and Russia probably comes to mind. It makes a fine novel when you think: "Wait... did this actually happen?" If it did, it would happen this way. Love is abandoned in despair and constantly sought by those abandoned. I don't know if I wanted Romochka to continue his life with the dogs or be "redeemed" by caring humans. It's been a few months now and I still can't decide.
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Format: Print on Demand (Paperback) Verified Purchase
Eva Hornung's novel Dog Boy is a memorable book. It's at once poetic, horrific, touchingly tender and deeply disturbing.

The severe hardships of facing the Russian winters without proper clothes, food and shelter are vividly portrayed.

The thoughts and fears of the 4 year old abandoned child ring true; I ached for him.

The depiction of the warmth and loyalty and loving fierceness of the dog clan brings the reader inside the pack, understanding the communication and relationships and each member's purpose. The author's depiction of these nuances was awesome.

And the ever-present well-intentioned arrogant interfering by the human world brings the reader up short.

This is a poignant, lovely, unforgettable book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had wanted to read Dog Boy for some time and finally got the chance on a plane. It was a short read, over in a four sitting, but every moment was engaging. The thing I found the most enjoyable was that we are not presented with a figure to pity. In the story of a boy who ends up living with a pack of feral dogs, becoming a part of that family - the author was presented with many times when that could have been the image presented - something to look down on and feel immeasurable sorrow for; a boy abandoned. Instead we are shown a stark story of survival, love, dedication, and a humanity that was lacking in great respect in the rest of Russian society as presented by the novel.

While some of the concepts in Dog Boy are complex we are faced near the end with a powerful choice as the reader: do we side with the citizens trying to be helpful by rehabilitating the titular "Dog Boy" or feel a sweep of anguish at the actions taken not out of simple desire to fix what they see as broken but to advance careers while doing so? That's the thing about Dog Boy, we're presented with a novel where emotion is so simple as to be complex. Love is layered with duties, responsibilities, and survival. When we begin to encounter humans more frequently we are bombarded with the complex psychology that we, the readers, deal with every day in society. It is placed against a stark backdrop of simple need, and the betrayals felt by the characters are something you can feel ripping through the pages into your own psyche.

I am not sure whether this book is depressing or uplifting, ultimately it is best described as a mixture of both.
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