The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser

6 October, 2009

The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser

The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser was a book I was planning on reading since its publication last year because 1) I love Michelle de Kretser’s writing, especially her book The Hamilton Case, 2) it was on the 2008 Booker longlist and 3) there have been some terrific reviews (see here for dovegreyreader‘s review). Also, de Kretser was born in Colombo and is of Sri Lankan origin and I always get excited when I find something by either a Sri Lankan or Japanese writer – kind of like getting in touch with my roots, you see. Since I found out de Kretser will be at the Galle Literary Festival in January, it’s given me an added impetus to read it before I see her, so that I can fully enjoy her talk and murmur in agreement as she drops choice hints about her book.

Let me start off by saying how incredibly polished de Kretser’s writing is. I’m immediately transported into her vivid, colourful world. Her words are like poetry, sublime. I wanted to savour each moment I was reading because you really feel that here is someone who is an accomplished writer. Yet, although I loved reading this book, somehow, I felt it rich in description yet a little slow in plot.

Tom Loxley, an academic expert on Henry James, moved to Australia with his English father and Anglo-Indian mother when he was a child. He sees Iris, his elderly mother, once a week, has a failed marriage behind him, is in love with controversial artist Nelly Zhang and owns a dog. One day, while trying to finish his book at Nelly’s country cabin, Tom’s dog goes missing. De Kretser uses the seven days following this event as he searches for his dog to explore Tom’s life. De Kretser’s eye for detail and use of language is beautiful. She gets the nuances of human interraction down pat. I loved the way she describes Tom’s Aunt Audrey, all generosity and altruism wrapped delicately in barbed wire.

There is a sense of quiet suffocation pervading through the lives in The Lost Dog. The only thing that seems to be free is the dog. De Kretser peels back the history of each character, revealing their past and secrets as she goes along.

As this novel is set during a week in Tom’s life, the ending, just as in real life, is not complete or finished. You get a slice of life garnished with the past. And I liked that, although I was still left with a few questions hovering in my mind. But most of all, I was left hoping that Tom and his friends will eventually find happiness.

2 Responses to “The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser”

  1. diane Says:

    I won a copy of this book, but I have not had a chance to read it. I does sound pretty good.

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