The International Writers Magazine:Review
Family In England by Matt Haig
(Vintage Random House £6.99)
Lynn Ede August 2005
Paperback 352 pages
is attractive, funny, sincere, loyal, offering unconditional love.
Hes also a dog. A Labrador to be exact.
Leeds author Matt
Haig writes the dog into the Hunter family to whom Prince pledges undying
allegiance, as set down by The Pact; a set of rules to which
all Labradors must adhere and which aim to protect The Family at all
costs. Haig has penned a more clever tale than might first appear, narrated
by the protagonist canine himself, in which much literary reference
is to be found "Humans fuck you up," said Falstaff,
a Springer Spaniel, "they may not mean to, but they do." Phillip
Larkin and Shakespeare thread their way through this different and thought-provoking
novel which shows a serious theme in the decline of the British family
at the same time an insight to the possible psyche of the dog.
Prince observes with growing alarm his familys gradual downfall
from the privileged but frustrating position of most family dogs, whose
lives consist of laying by the fire listening to the familial fun and
fights around them of the humans unaware of their deep intelligence.
Touching and laugh-out-loud in turn, the story sees teenagers
wild drug-filled parties through the floor-level viewpoint of Prince,
illicit affairs and flirtations of the Father and Mother, even murders
which the poor Labrador seems powerless to prevent. However, running
parallel to the human scene is the canine community centred around the
local park. Here we meet delightful and dangerous breeds represented
in the characters of the old Labrador guru Henry and Irish Wolfhound
Joyce who discuss each others problems and what guidance The
Pact might offer to Prince, who is determined to save the plight
of his Family.
Its quite a feat, that Haig has managed, to encapsulate so accurately
the traits and humour in the escapades of each breed as they, according
to The Pact, must avoid sniffing for pleasure and
who dig the dirt beyond all reasonable restraint for debris left by
humans who come into the park at night to drink and smoke and
fuck and eat and drug and puke.
Interpret as much as you want to between the lines of this excellent
book, suitable for adults and teenagers alike, its a compelling
read, a must on your shopping list.
© Lynn Ede
Freelance Journalist & Illustrator
Send a free email postcard of Lynn's artwork at http://www.lynndesigns.co.uk/postcard.html
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