The Little Dog: A story of good and evil, and retribution. (A Red Grouse Tale) Kindle Edition
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One of a series of stories, based on the tales the author and friends used to tell each other in the pub. The Little Dog is Bill’s tale of a sequence of events from many years before in his youth. In the story, Bill is a young woodsman, tasked with logging in a particular area of the forestry estate. He’s paired up with Stan Blackman, a greasy individual that no-one particularly likes and they drive off to a remote site to finish the logging job started the year before. At a particular point in their drive, they spot a little dog, seemingly by itself. I won’t say any more as I don’t want to give the story away, but suffice it to say, all is not quite as it seems.
The book is well written and the tale is gripping, even though it is a little slow to start. I loved the descriptions of the landscape and the author’s attention to detail made the story become almost cinematic: I could see the landscape in my head, the sweeping beauty of it as well as the drama of the weather. All the while you are aware that something is not quite right: there is a sense of impending calamity, but you can’t quite put your finger on what’s wrong. I think this would actually make a very good film.
There is a little philosophical discussion between some characters on the nature of good and evil – all interesting and very relevant to the story. There is the odd explanation that is not really needed, though this may be to make the story more accessible to non-UK readers?
I ended up reading this all in one day and would very much recommend it. I will be going back and purchasing more of this author’s work.
It brought to mind a very late evening I spent at a pub in Todmorden many years ago. Most of the early evening crowd, who had been there for a drink or two, had left and all that remained were the old-timers settling in for “I remember a time when...” stories. I was one of those younger folks happily sitting back at a nearby table with another pint of Old Peculiar and ready to be pulled into a tale about something before my time that still applied to the present day then and now.
Of course, having a little dog as the thread to bind it was a bonus for me (as I read the book, my Jack Russell “Daisy” snored at my side, which was a good thing...I would have been more than a bit unnerved had she been awake and giving me cryptic glances).
Overall, this is a tale of good and evil, why do bad things happen to good people, and how do you define and separate evil in people from the merely “he was just a bad sort, one to avoid if possible”.
William (now wanting to be called “Bill” as he is transitioning from schoolboy to adult man, but not quite there as yet at the time the story takes place, but now several decades older as he shares the experience) grapples with this question when he finds himself with a week's assignment with a completely unlikable person, Stan, in a remote forestry area.
As the week wears on, both physically and mentally, Bill becomes more and more alarmed by factors, both on the job and in the village.
The story ends with more questions than answers, but that is the point. The reader is tested to make his or her own conclusions, or at least think about the questions raised.
For me, Garland's storytelling technique took me back to that late night in Todmorden, where perhaps not so coincidentally, a particular story raised the hairs on my neck and I left the pub for a short walk about the village to take a break. The midnight dark and fog had me hurrying back to the relative calmness of the lights, camaraderie, and more stories in the pub.
The fantasy elements didn’t show up immediately. Once the first few hints of them did appear, I was mesmerized by how subtle and open to interpretation they were. While this isn’t the kind of writing style I’d typically expect to find in this genre, I absolutely loved it for this particular storyline. The ambiguity blended in in perfectly with the narrator’s young and innocent outlook on life.
Mr. Garland’s eloquent descriptions of the daily lives of foresters lured me into the plot immediately. He touched on everything from the proper way to cut down a tree in order to preserve as much of the wood as possible to the narrator’s mixed feelings about the gangly teenagers who worked at the ferry. There were so many moments like these that were captured in perfect detail that I felt as though I, too, had spent decades doing this job.
The little dog that Bill found on the side of the road was originally my biggest reason for wanting to read this book. I was eager to know why he was wandering around alone in the middle of nowhere and what would happen to him next. While I can’t say much about this part of the plot without giving away spoilers, I will say that it exceeded every expectation I had for it. The dog was even more intriguing than I thought he’d be, and I was quite pleased with how the author incorporated him and his backstory into what otherwise appeared to be a completely mundane workweek.
There was quite a bit of philosophical musing in this tale about why some people choose to make horrible choices in life and what the difference is between someone who makes one bad decision and someone who is objectively an awful human being. These passages turned out to be my favourite parts of the storyline other than the scenes that focused on the dog. Not only did they fit Bill’s gentle, contemplative personality perfectly, they gave me some food for thought as well!
The Little Dog is one of the best books I’ve read so far in 2016. I’d heartily recommend it to anyone who adores fantasy stories that ask the audience to think critically about what they’ve just read.
originally posted at long and short reviews
Most recent customer reviews
It took a while to get into the story, the beginning is slow.Read more