Review: Even the Dogs, Jon McGregor

October 8, 2013 Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review: Even the Dogs, Jon McGregorEven the Dogs by Jon McGregor
Published by Bloomsbury on 2010
Genres: Contemporary, Literary Fiction
Pages: 200
Source: My copy
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three-half-stars

On a cold, quiet day between Christmas and the New Year, a man’s body is found in an abandoned apartment. His friends look on, but they’re dead, too, their bodies found in remote corners of the city. Victims of heroin overdose, they’re in the shadows, a chorus keeping vigil as the hours pass, paying homage as their friend’s body is taken away, examined, investigated, and cremated.

All of their stories are laid out piece by broken piece through a series of fractured narratives—of lives fallen through the cracks, hopes flaring and dying, love overwhelmed by a stronger need, and the havoc wrought by drugs, distress, and the disregard of the wider world. These invisible people live in a parallel reality, out of reach of basic creature comforts, like food and shelter. In their sudden deaths, it becomes clear, they are treated with more respect than they ever were in their short lives.

Intense, exhilarating, and shot through with hope and fury, Even the Dogs is an intimate exploration of life at the edges of society—littered with love, loss, despair, and a half-glimpse of redemption.

natashas_review

(Winner of the 2012 International Dublin Literary Award)

On a dismal winter’s day, somewhere in the midlands, the police discover a decaying corpse in a derelict apartment. This is Robert.  And so begins our journey through the underbelly of lower class England.

Robert is a raging alcoholic whose wife and daughter left him years ago. His apartment has become a sanctuary for a host of troubled characters. These include Danny, a drifter heroin addict from London who travels with his dog, Einstein.  Heather has lost her children to her addiction but still can’t give it up. Ben is a violent sociopath, Mike is a paranoid schizophrenic and Steve is an ex-army veteran who still has not forgiven his country for sending him to war.

What happened to Robert? How did he die? And what will become of his group of squatters?

McGregor introduces us to a world of addiction, homelessness and delinquency. The narrative style takes a bit of getting used to. It is the first time I have encountered a ‘group narrative’; an omnipresent group of people who follow Robert’s corpse as the coroner investigates his death. Just as you become accustomed to this however, the style changes to a first person narrative and includes sentences that just end midway.

When I began reading this book the characters appalled me. The world McGregor portrays is so foreign and sinister to what I am used to (thank goodness I suppose) that I found it quite unsettling reading. It is a world of drug users, alcoholics and delinquents; where the most urgent and important need is to make enough money for the next score. By the end of the novel, I can’t say I liked any of the characters, but they became more human. I pitied them. I hoped for something positive amongst the ashes and squalor.

I found it to be a rather cautionary tale; nothing good comes from this lifestyle, and most of the characters come to a rather gristly end. Yet it gives the addicts; the homeless; the forgotten people in society a face and a voice – even if what that voice says is something that makes us uncomfortable, and we would rather be deaf to it.

three-half-stars –  well written, confronting and thought provoking.

Natasha lives in Brisbane, Australia with her husband and son. She is a self confessed bibliophile who enjoys literature and adult fiction. She also loves travelling and aims to visit 40 countries by the time she is 40 (current count 36).

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