The Lost Dog: A Novel Paperback – Aug 13 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
De Kretser (The Hamilton Case) presents an intimate and subtle look at Tom Loxley, a well-intentioned but solipsistic Henry James scholar and childless divorcé, as he searches for his missing dog in the Australian bush. While the overarching story follows Tom's search during a little over a week in November 2001, flashbacks reveal Tom's infatuation with Nelly Zhang, an artist tainted by scandal—from her controversial paintings to the disappearance and presumed murder of her husband, Felix, a bond trader who got into some shady dealings. As Tom puts the finishing touches on his book about James and the uncanny and searches for his dog, de Kretser fleshes out Tom's obsession with Nelly—from the connection he feels to her incendiary paintings (one exhibition was dubbed Nelly's Nasties in the press) to the sleuthing about her past that he's done under scholarly pretenses. Things progress rapidly, with a few unexpected turns thrown in as Tom and Nelly get together, the murky circumstances surrounding Felix's disappearance are (somewhat) cleared up and the matter of the missing dog is settled. De Kretser's unadorned, direct sentences illustrate her characters' flaws and desires, and she does an admirable job of illuminating how life and art overlap in the 21st century. (Apr.)
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"Multilayered and beguiling....The Hamilton
Case does enchant, certainly, but--more
important--the book admirably and resolutely
sees the world as it really is."
―William Boyd, New York Times Book Review
"Hypnotic, lush and calmly observant."―Chris Lehmann, Washington Post Book World
"Comic, tragic, haunting, hallucinatory and
elusive, but vivid and exact, this is a brilliant
book by a brilliant writer."
―Karen Joy Fowler (author of "The Jane Austen Book Club")
Michelle de Kretser's The Hamilton Case
ratifies every dream one might have of a tropical
landscape....She is, however, as smart and up-
to-date as she can be....A dazzling
performance."―Anita Desai, New York Review of Books
An elegant, seductive...work of art."―Laura Miller, Salon.com
"One of the best arguments against false exotic
chic I've read."―Sudip Bose, Washington Times
"The Lost Dog is an uncompromisingly literary (and literate) book: ferociously intelligent, highbrow, allusive and unflinching....There are all kinds of terrors lurking within the heart of the book--these are for the reader to discover--but the one that is most palpable is the undeniable fact that this book is touched, like Rilke's "terrible angel," by the terror of greatness."―Neel Mukherjee, Time
"Engrossing. . .De Kretser confidently marshals her reader back and forth through the book's complex flashback structure, keeping us in suspense even as we read simply for the pleasure of her prose. . . . De Kretser knows when to explain, and when to leave us deliciously wondering."―Moira Macdonald, The Seattle Times
"More often than not, de Kretser nails some situation or foible in 20 words or less. . .There is much here that dazzles. . . .De Kretser's writing is as boldly beautiful as ever."―Alison McCulloch, The New York Times Book Review
"A nuanced portrait of a man in his time. The novel, like Tom, is multicultural, intelligent, challenging, and, ultimately, rewarding."―Andrea Kempf, Library Journal
"An intimate and subtle look at Tom Loxley, a well-intentioned but solipsistic Henry James scholar and childless divorcé, as he searches for his missing dog in the Australian bush.... Things progress rapidly, with a few unexpected turns thrown in as Tom and Nelly get together, the murky circumstances surrounding Felix's disappearance are (somewhat) cleared up and the matter of the missing dog is settled. De Kretser's unadorned, direct sentences illustrate her characters' flaws and desires, and she does an admirable job of illuminating how life and art overlap in the 21st century."―Publishers Weekly
"De Kretser's daring willingness to let suspense accrue without promising resolution is a worthy echo of Henry James's brilliance."―Dara Horn, Washington Post
"That rare treasure, a perfect novel...As the plot grows darker and more complex, de Kretser's prose gleams with sinister beauty. Her sentences sparkle like precious things."―Lev Grossman, Time Magazine (Best Books of 2004)
"Ruminative and roving in form, an intense, immaculate...novel."―Kirkus Reviews
"A wonderful tale of obsession, art, death, loss, human failure, and past and present loves. One of
"De Kretser's displaced and subtle characters are genuinely interesting, and her writing is emotionally accurate...a fine novel."―Ursula K. Le Guin, The Guardian (UK)
"This is the best novel I have read for a long time. The writing is elegant and subtle, and Michelle de Kretser knows how to construct a gripping story."―A.S. Byatt, Financial Times (UK)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In our story, Tom Loxley is a professor writing a book on Henry James. He takes his dog with him to a small "cabin" in the Australian outback to focus on finishing the project that he seems incapable of completing. The retreat is owned by Nellie Zhang, a semi-famous artist who has a past that is questionable, and that slowly unfolds to the reader throughout the book. Tom's emotional and physical attractions to Nellie comprise one of the main storylines of The Lost Dog.
Several other plotlines are present in the novel, including the story of the search for the dog. The past lives of Tom, Nellie, and Tom's mother are all woven together to provide the framework of de Kretser's story.
Michelle de Kretser is an author who was born in Sri Lanka and immigrated to Australia at the age of 14. The immigrant experience serves as a touchstone for several of the themes present in the novel. Important themes that are explored are the modern world, progress, aging, art, and family.
The thing that is most impressive about de Kretser's writing is her use of the metaphor. A description of Tom's father is one example: "He was an umbrella, tightly furled. Springing open, he might gouge flesh from your fingers."
The author is much-praised for her writing style. Her second novel, The Hamilton Case, received the Commonwealth Writers' Prize (a recognition for the South East Asia and South Pacific region). Her prose is masterful , and the novel well crafted. She makes use of a popular-of-late device, the unreliable narrator. The story has twists and turns that allude to Henry James, the focus of Tom Loxley's expertise.
The only problem with the novel may be that it is too masterful to be pleasurable, yet this may be a desired intent of the author. The characters are not lovable, but you will keep turning the pages, if only to find out, "WHAT HAPPENS TO THE DOG???"
But the most annoying thing of all is the self-consciously clever use of language, including metaphors that are so strange that they slow the book down immeasurably while the poor reader tries to figure them out. This is "sensibility" raised to the point of the ridiculous. The only reason I read it is that I didn't have anything else to read at the moment.
Tom of English and Indian parents arrived in Australia as a teenager and Nelly is a descendant of several nationalities, including Asian. The mixed ethnicity is not without its discomforts to them both. Tom becomes infatuated with Nelly over her highly unique artistic talents combining painting and photography. But she is mostly an enigma to Tom - her past is hazy and contributes to Tom's frequent invoking of his Indian childhood.
The plot elements are few. Beyond searching for the dog, the sudden and suspicious disappearance of Nelly's stockbroker husband many years before occupies Tom. Both the dog search and the constant return to Tom's India become tiresome. The plot serves more as a mechanism for the author to issue a series of keen observations on life, some delivered by the characters, and some through the narrator. The bouncing around among locales and time frames makes the reading a bit of a struggle. Perhaps, the smartness of the book slightly outweighs its obscurity.
I enjoyed the writing, the presentation of the art world, and the adherence to Henry James' quote that "the whole of anything cannot be told."
As an artist, I chuckled and then gave much thought to the fact that Nelly --the artist-- was selling photographed paintings rather than the real thing. I don't think that the author just threw this in as an interesting are story. It has meaning in both plot and themes.
I was only bored by the author's over wrought presentation of feces.