- 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: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,405,902 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Lost Dog Hardcover – April 28, 2008
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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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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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It’s good to see a modern book carrying modern connections in it, such as the references to the use of modern technology. Many contemporary books do not contain references to the things we use every day, and that makes them seem out of touch and unreal. The Lost Dog blends this into the contemporary, and into a drifting story that weaves through the life of a stubborn and sensitive man, the lead character, Tom Loxley.
There’s a sincere portrayal of a man and his union with a dog. The way an animal can get and remain under the skin of ever the hardest of men, not that Loxley is hard man. The book shows just how strong and permanent that union can be.
In many moments throughout the book, the image of that dog come back to Loxley, and these are some of the most poignant parts of the book. I feel it’s clear that de Kretser has a close relationship with animals, to be able to render them as she has.
Normally, I’m not a lover of description, but when de Kretser does it, I get something out of it. The poetic imagery she is able to assign to even the smallest and most insignificant of objects, places and characters, actually adds fuel to the story, and it didn’t turn me away as description does in so many other books.
At times, I did feel lost though. I haven’t figured out if it was due to the depth of the story, or the sophisticated interlacing of ideas and memories; the lead does find himself in memory a lot. This is something I’ve seen in the writing of other authors, like Patrick White, who I love.
There are many aspects to this book, such as the complexities of inner-city life, relationships, art and artists, a very Melbourne duo. Then, there’s the poetry quoted, and a keen observation for so many things. But, I found the connections between Loxley and the lost dog, the most touching in a book that will stay with me, for its opening lines alone.
I’ll be getting de Kretser’s latest book, Questions of Travel. Which will come in convenient, because according to a member of my club, “It’s a book, we will have to do?”
Also I didn't 'like' any of the characters. Normally that would be pivotal to my enjoyment, however I really enjoyed Michelle's character development, she made them believable and gave them substance. I have met all the characters in this book in real life.
This book reminds me of two different phases in my life, when I was in my early 20's hanging out with an arty crowd in an old warehouse in Melbourne, and then when I lived in Richmond.
We read this book for my Book Club and it wasn't everyone's cup of tea.
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. She makes use of a popular-of-late device, the unreliable narrator. The story has twists and turns that allude to Henry James, the focus of Tom Loxley's expertise.
The only problem with the novel may be that it is too masterful to be pleasurable, yet this may be a desired intent of the author. The characters are not lovable, but you will keep turning the pages, if only to find out, "WHAT HAPPENS TO THE DOG???"