Diana Wynne Jones Month, Day 12: Dogsbody (#dwjmarch)

diana wynne jones month march
Today’s topic is about Dogsbody! It’s one of DWJ’s few scifi books. Here’s the summary for those who haven’t yet read Dogsbody:

The Dog Star, Sirius, is tried for murder by his heavenly peers and found guilty. His sentence: to be reborn on Earth as a dog until such time as he carries out the seemingly impossible mission imposed on him.

In his Earth guise, Sirius, renamed Leo, truly lives a dog’s life. Although he is the pet of a girl who loves him, both child and dog are mistreated by the family with whom they live. But the worldly obstacles Leo faces are minor when compared with his chilling encounters with the Dark Powers that are set against him. His quest seems hopeless until at last Sol, Moon, and Earth itself come to his aid.

DogsbodyI have only read Dogsbody once! And it was somewhat traumatizing. Here’s what I said when I reviewed it in 2012:

That said, after reading [Dogsbody] I remembered why I mostly prefer post-Chrestomanci DWJ books to pre-Chrestomanci. Her early books have a different feeling to them than her later ones, though the elements and individual DWJ-ish touches are usually the same. For example! Dogsbody has some truly heinous adults running around causing trouble, kids being subjugated and mistreated, and almost psychedelic fantasy/sci-fi moments that somehow make it all worse. It’s a very dark book, much darker than I was expecting, and though there’s good to balance out the bad, the bittersweet ending didn’t exactly make me want to shout “HURRAH I’ve finally read Dogsbody.” Instead I just sat there and stared at the walls for a bit going “well, I didn’t expect that.”

It’s a very strange feeling, being afraid to reread a book, but I kinda am! Have you read Dogsbody?

8 thoughts on “Diana Wynne Jones Month, Day 12: Dogsbody (#dwjmarch)”

  1. That darn Jenny’s Rule again — I liked this one SO MUCH better the second time through because I had read a lot more of DWJs books and I just knew her better and knew why she would write a story like this. It’s much more real life than fantasy which makes it hard to stomach in some parts, to admit that people can be that cruel and heartless. BUT it’s so well-written and, yes, it’s dark but it also has moments of pure love and happiness. I think you should give it another read. 🙂

  2. Yes, give it another go! I really like Dogsbody. How on earth does anyone pull off writing a dog story that isn’t a dog story, and plausibly bring in stars, the Irish Troubles, the Wild Hunt, and a dog’s love of smells and ice cream? Considering that I don’t even care for dogs that much, I re-read this one a lot.

  3. Funny, because I was thinking– and was wondering how it would fit in my review– almost exactly the opposite: that I was glad that in this story where there were truly awful people, there were also more neutral people and (most importantly) people you could thoroughly trust. I appreciated that it wasn’t like a Sirius-and-Kathleen-against-the-whole-world thing. Like, could’ve been worse! I think I went in aware ahead of time, though, that this book was darker and had abusive situations in it, so I was prepped for even less goodness and kindness, and much relieved to find so much more than I expected!

    1. It could have for sure been worse! I’m glad it wasn’t. I’ve never been a fan of all-out tragedies, myself. Dogsbody isn’t really a tragedy, but it’s as close as I’d go. :p

  4. I think you should give it another read also! So that you can better come to appreciate how great it is!

    (For what it’s worth, most of my favorites of Diana Wynne Jones’s books were written before The Lives of Christopher Chant. So there’s that. I like her darkest and weirdest stuff.)

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