Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Henry's Tale, by David Pipe

Widminster Books, January 2018

CW: No dogs actually die in the course of this story, but we learn of past deaths of dogs, and street dog culture is portrayed with a plausible amount of violence.

Henry Ford is the cutest little border terrier puppy ever, eager to grow up. "Nearly a year old!" he reminds his Papa several times. His Papa, Alan Ford, loves him. His mama, not so much. But he is loved by his papa, and is safe, comfortable, and happy, visiting his friends and going to terrier school.

Then his mama puts her foot down and insists Papa take her to Majorca for a week on vacation. Henry has to stay with strangers down the street--nice people, but strangers, and he's never been separated from his papa since Alan brought him home.

The nice people he stays with do their best, but when the woman leaves Henry tied up outside a store, a strange man attempts to dognap him. The storekeeper rescues him, but in the process Henry gets kicked. The kidnapping and the subsequent stay at the veterinary clinic are traumatic for Henry, and when he remains depressed after returning to his dogsitter's home, his friend Bully, an English bulldog, urges him to go on a holiday of their own. Bully wants to visit Southend, where he was born and he still has some dog family. It's the start of a startling, educational, and upsetting adventure for Henry.

This is an enjoyable, fun book, with likable dogs. We see the story almost entirely from Henry's viewpoint. Dog society is shown as working in accord with canine, not human, biology.

Since this seems mostly to be aimed at younger readers, it's totally excusable that the dogs seem to have, at least in some circumstances, to have an impressive degree of manual dexterity. Yet that same apparent intended audience means that some parents won't be pleased about the relatively honest portrayal of canine sexual antics. But they are dogs, after all, and this is the UK, and it seems altogether possible that British parents may be less hypersensitive on that point than, especially, a certain subset of American parents

I was also a bit perturbed by the fact that one of the ways we are given to understand that Henry's mama is Not A Nice Person and is a shallow social climber, is that she has a lower-class accent from an area considered less desirable. At no point is it conceded that her complaint about no longer having the job in a dress shop she held while she and Alan were in London, and instead having as her major contact with other people taking Henry to the terrier club for training, has some justice to it.

Yet for all my sense that she doesn't get a fair shake from the author, I still can't like her. How can you like someone who dislikes dogs as much as she does?

Altogether, it's an enjoyable book, and how can you not love a dog telling his own exciting coming-of-age story? It's a lot of fun.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

No comments:

Post a Comment