Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

In my book club, Bibliochix, we nominate books based on the fact that none of us had previously read the book. I quickly offered up The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. I really don't remember where I had read about it, but it piqued enough interest to go to to check out reviews etc. Stephen King, a writer who I greatly admire for Shawshank Redemption, The Stand and The Green Mile, equated The Story of Edgar Sawtelle to Life of Pi. Now, Life of Pi is one of my all time favorites. We're talking numero uno baby. So, I put it up for a recommendation and it was accepted. I was distraught when Oprah picked it as one of her selections. I despise Oprah selections. It usually means one of the following is in the book: abuse, abuse, depression, death, murder, abuse, you get the picture. So, when she picked Edgar, I went into a depression. My first thoughts were the dogs are abused, the boy is abused, the mother is abused. SPOILER ALERT! And in some ways all of this comes true. Much has been said about the ending. I read an interview with David Wroblewski, the author, and he was asked as to whether the book is fashioned after Hamlet. He said, "Hamlet was the initial reference point for the story. But I quickly began to subvert that as much as I could. ..... I think of it not as a retelling of Hamlet but as evoking Hamlet. I was trying to draw on the much larger traditions of Shakespearean drama. " If you know the plot of Hamlet, and if Edgar is Hamlet, then you know the ending. Many reviewers are angered by the ending but, hey, it's Hamlet, man. Shakespeare. Read more...

The other aspect of the book and a main part of the book are the Sawtelle dogs. John Sawtelle, Edgar's grandfather, experimented with genetics to try to bred dogs that were intuitive. He wanted to see if the owner and the dog could create their own personal "language" to communicate. At times, the chapters concerned with the dogs' training go on way too long. But the use of chapters devoted to the dog's point of view are powerful and very effective. Another aspect of the book is whether a dog can be truely domesticated or is there always a side that can once again go "wild". Can the same be said of humans?

I've not given you a clear picture of what The Story of Edar Sawtelle is truely about. And that is done on purpose. This is a book that you need to experience on your own. Let's just suffice to say you will be thinking about this novel for a long, long time.

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