Friday, March 12, 2010

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: A novel

The problem I see with having a book group that has been together for over 15 years is that we care too much about each others lives. The first half of our gatherings are simply wasted on catching up on the latest news, family updates, business adventures, and the stuff of life. These updates get longer and longer as the years go by. They are, well, frankly - wonderful! Even when the news is not happy it is so nice to support each other.

When we finally settled enough to discuss the book the plot comparison to William Shakespeare's Hamlet was immediate. The title character Edward is born mute and communicates with his family and the dogs they raise as their business in his own form of sign language. He is easily mistaken as someone to be overlooked, but is one smart cookie. He unravels a tale of revenge and envy that dates back before his time and risks everything to prove it.

The author switches narrators and this device allows us to glean insight into the motivations of Edgar, his mother, his uncle, even his beloved dog. Even to a moderate dog lover, the chapters that are narrated by Edgar's dog Almondine are sweet and heartbreaking.

The story is epic and gripping and while there is plenty of foreshadowing certain events are shocking.

There was some criticism that the "villains" seemed one dimensional and that the "all bad" character is hard to buy. We did have some desires regarding the way the story concluded that can't be discussed without ruining it for a reader who should read this book on their own, but I hope it isn't too much to say that if you're reading a book loosely based on the Hamlet storyline don't be shocked when the book doesn't end with a wedding or a big party.