Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Power of the Dog

Poor me. I thought this book, found on some forgotten list of best books and jotted down in my little notebook, was perhaps a nice dog story. And so, I was almost driven away by the first paragraph, which is a brutal and graphic description of what happens when a calf is castrated. 

I can just hear my sister saying Oops, not a happy novel for Princess Bluebird! Even when I was halfway through this book I considered setting it aside and giving up. However, I'm glad I stayed with it, because it is the kind of novel that will stay with me--tough, gritty, and with many, many layers to continue to think about long after the book is finished. A complex novel (oh, no, I'm talking book reviewer talk, and you know I don't like to do that) wherein one diabolical and secret plot is played off against another far more diabolical and secret plot. 

Fascinating characters--weak, strong, good, evil, sometimes sadistic and often more than a little strange--populate this chilling, taut, and very tense novel of the west. I can say no more. 

The Power of the Dog, by Thomas Savage. First published  in 1967; reprinted in 2003 with an afterword by Annie Proulx. 

4 comments:

Erikka said...

Hi Clair. If I wanted to try a stillmeadow book, which would you recommend I read first? alas, the BPL does not have the first one, Harvest at Stillmeadow...

clairz said...

Erikka, how nice to hear from you! I would start with just about any of the Stillmeadow books. They were mainly collections of Gladys' magazine columns, and it seems to me that she always recounted how she came to Stillmeadow in each book.

Stillmeadow Album, as I recall, is a collection of photos from the farm. I always liked Stillmeadow Seasons... Any hope of getting Stillmeadow Harvest via interlibrary loan? It's pretty old, I guess.

How I wish I still had my Stillmeadow books! I bundled them all up and donated them to the Candia Swap Shop when we moved. I don't usually regret getting rid of stuff, but I certainly do in this case. I just hope that someone is appreciating them.

I'm thinking about reassembling my collection of Gladys' books via ebay and alibris.

Jean (aka Auntie Bucksnort) said...

Sounds excellent to me... I like dark reads. And since I don't read very much, the last dark western novel I read was Cormac McCarthy's (All The Pretty Horses) when it came out in the 90's. No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood also come to mind (didn't read the books but saw the films).

All three of these have attached themselves to my psyche is a peculiar fascinating way, like nightmares that I'm so happy and relieved to wake up from, but that stay with me and give me some interesting perspectives on subsequent experiences in real life.

Thanks for the reminder. It makes me appreciate the many lights in my life all the more.

Beth said...

Hmmm...sounds like a very well-written book, but I'll probably steer clear for now. I've been sort of a Princess Bluebird myself lately---feeling a need for hopeful reading. I'm definitely going to look up that Stillmeadow series---sounds like my kind of books. Thanks for your wonderful reviews, Clair.