I finished reading Dogsbody over the past two days; it’s a book following the trials of Sirius, a celestial being imprisoned on Earth in the form of a dog after he’s accused of murdering a fellow luminary. He’s taken in by a young girl named Kathleen, who lives with her pretty awful relatives: an aunt named Duffie, who frankly, wants Kathleen out of their lives; her uncle, an aloof man who chooses to ignore the problems in his household; and Basil and Robin, her two cousins. Basil takes after his aunt, but is actually a little less horrible to Kathleen, while Robin loves both her and the dog. Meanwhile, Sirius is searching desperately for this tool called the Zoi, which, if he can find, will lead to his being acquitted from the murder trial.
I really love Diana Wynne Jones. She wrote my favorite book, Howl’s Moving Castle, which I’ve read maybe several hundred times over my life. Just kidding, maybe not that much, but my copy of the book is basically rags at this point because it’s been flipped through so much. I decided to finally branch out and read some other books by her, so I’ve also got my hands on the sort-of sequel to Howl, called House of Many Ways, and I’ve also found A Tale of Time City. Anyways, since she wrote my favorite book, I had pretty high expectations for this one and to be honest, it didn’t really meet my standards.
The book is good– I won’t deny that. You get to see Sirius’s life as a luminary and also as a dog, though I think it’s divided like 20/80. So you see a lot more dog than star, but that’s okay, the dog part is more interesting in my opinion. Of course, the characters in her book are incredibly well-thought out and have not only depth, but relatability. Sirius is notorious for his short-temperedness, narrow-mindedness, and tends to act impulsively. Kathleen is a sweet, sad girl who’s lost her father in what I believe to be the 1969 Northern Ireland Riots. He’s in prison. Her mother’s gone to America without her. She suffers constant verbal and emotional abuse in the hands of Duffie, but she managed to keep on a smile and push her way through the tough times. The side characters are lovable too, like Bruce and Patches and Tibbles, Romulus and Remus. Even the shadow-king person, who only appears very briefly, manages to garner some sympathy. There’s a line of dialogue between him and Kathleen that goes like,
Master: “I want to walk Earth as you do.”
Kathleen: “I don’t think you should. Not if you’re going to cheat and muddle everyone.”
Master: “I only do that because I’m in darkness; can’t you understand?”
It’s pretty tragic. I felt bad for him. Of course, then he accidentally scares Kathleen and she accidentally zaps him away with the Zoi, and that’s the end of the Master, which is a pity because he was an interesting character.
I didn’t really understand the end of this book too much; it all happened way too fast for me. I think that there was kind of a disjoint between the “magical” and the “realistic” aspects of the story; of course, there’s always a bit of mystery about Sirius’s origins and why his eyes are green, all that kind of stuff, but for a book that has very little mention of magic in the beginning, there certainly is a whole lot of it by the end. I don’t know how else to describe it; I guess you’d have to read it to see.
I really enjoyed about the interactions and relationship between Kathleen and Sirius, though, whom she names “Leo.” They’re really cute; he’s basically her only friend, and he teaches himself English so that he may better understand her, her life, and her troubles and anxieties. Sirius is constantly being torn between looking for the Zoi and comforting Kathleen, and in the end, he chooses Kathleen over all else. Or at least, he tries to, but it’s a bit too late for that. They’re split apart by the finale, but I think that there’s supposed to be a note of hope that they’ll be together again one day, because there’s a line about Sirius keeping his companion sphere empty because “you never know.” I’m not really sure. That’s what I interpreted it as.
If you like books that are from a dog’s point of view, this might be interesting. If you love stars, go ahead and try, because they talk a lot about different stars. If you’re looking for something to read to pass the time, something that isn’t intense, you can check out Dogsbody. I wouldn’t read it again, but I don’t regret picking it up out of the book stacks.