One thing that I love about taking literature courses is being assigned readings that are also on my TBR list. Though the professor gave us a little over a week to read the book, I finished it in two days. André Alexis was able to captivate me immediately within the first few pages of his novel Fifteen Dogs. It won numerous prizes such as the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2015 and was recently named the winner of the 2017 edition of Canada Reads.
Synopsis: The story begins with a bet between two brothers, the Greek gods Hermes and Apollo. The latter believed that any animal, if given human intelligence, would be more miserable than humans. And so in exchange for a year of servitude, the gods agree on the bet, and grant human consciousness and language to a group of fifteen dogs. As they free themselves from a veterinarian clinic in Toronto, the canines are forced to live and survive at a nearby park. They soon face a challenge that will determine their own future: accept this intelligence or reject it.
Even though I read this novel from cover to cover in a couple of days, I thought the idea of the Greek gods was unoriginal. It reminded me of another book I read a few years ago called Gods Behaving Badly. Both stories involved the gods of Mount Olympus living in modern day. They become bored and decide to intervene in the lives of mortals for their own amusement. Sounds like most Greek myths involving the divine, right?
Because the book is rather short with only four chapters, the story evolved quickly. The author made solid parallels with human behaviours displayed by the dogs. It reminded me how awful we could be at times in order to survive, to protect the lives we are accustomed to, etc. Alexis also explored the relationships between humans and their loyal canine companions. Dog owners are surely able to relate to certain parts of the story. I know I did.
Beautifully written and meaningful, almost philosophical.
“Fifteen Dogs” by André Alexis
Publication date: April 1, 2015
Publisher: Coach House Books
Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥