Thursday, 1 March 2012

So he takes the dog

'So he takes the dog' by Jonathan Buckley is another title with a doggy reference that bears little relevance to the book, in this case the dog finds a body on the beach that begins this tale of murder mystery. But it is not so much a mystery about the identity of the killer as the identity of the victim. In a way the style reminded me of Jon Mcgregor, it was so understated, so you were not aware of the subtleties of the writing, it did not intrude on the reading or make you notice that he was being clever. In a quiet little seaside town Henry, the resident vagrant (if that's not a contradiction in terms), is found dead on he beach and as John and Ian the local policemen try to piece together the events they begin to dig themselves into what is obviously a big black hole. Many, many people saw him, or even knew his name, he was such a feature of their local landscape but even Hannah, who thought of herself as his friend, didn't really know anything about him. The story holds you in suspense for chapter after chapter, tiny new snippets of information gradually come to light, until in a moment of inspiration a link is made and the history of Henry falls into place. I won't spoil that part of the story, but what I liked so much about the book is that part of your mind is focussing on Henry and the other half is watching as the people around the story are affected by the enforced contact that the events have caused. I like it because it has the feel of a storm in a teacup. A tiny place and time gets all stirred up, swirls violently around for a while and little ripples radiate from the source of the turbulence. But you are left at the end as mystified about Henry as ever, we only have hearsay, other people's opinions and third hand reports of vague memories. You are tempted to make assumptions about Henry, just as the police and observers are, to think you can guess at what was going on in his life. You are even drawn in by Hannah's slightly naive view of him as being somehow deep and philosophical. I like the fact it is not all drawn neatly to a conclusion at the end, life is messy and why pretend otherwise.



What I sometimes like most about reading is when you just pass over tiny little sentences and they are so beautiful and expressive without being overly clever or pretentious. This is what this book has. Just a couple to tell you what I mean:


"The next day the flyers were issues, using Hannah's photograph instead of he fuzzy beach snap, and stations in London were given the new improved mugshot. The response was silence. It felt as if we were lobbing marbles into a bog." (p.65)


"Leaning against the wall, she gives the impression, as she watches the sea, that this is what she would have been doing anyway, just watching the sea as the sun slides into it. A warm, sweet, saline air is coming into the room. On the houses there's a varnish of buttermilk sunlight." (p.235)


Everything about this book was lovely. I can't recall where I saw it mentioned but thank you as usual to whoever drew my attention to it, I recommend it highly.
(Photo to follow as I am on the iPad and it doesn't do all sorts of stuff properly. I have several other things to write about but will wait til Creature deigns to give me back the laptop. Julian Barnes The Sense of an Ending has been a very brief but wonderful read, will get to it later today, plus a couple of films. Knitting is coming along well and have a fabulous secret project that I hope may be done by next week.)

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