Fifteen Dogs, the 2015 Giller Prize winner, is our March Book club pick. It is a unique story of fifteen unrelated dogs who are within a veterinary clinic when the Greed Gods, Hermes and Apollo decide to give human consciousness and language to the dogs as part of a bet. The winner would receive a year of servitude from the loser if the dogs “would be even more unhappy than humans are, if they were given human intelligence”.
The fifteen dogs recognized the change in their thinking and escaped the veterinary clinic, the majority fleeing to High Park. Those who fled, struggled with their language and with decisions of leadership leading to violence and death. One by one, the dogs died, each dealing with their language and human thought in different ways. Some dogs remained in the pack, some were exiled and some chose, intermittently, to live with humans. The Gods and the Fates watched and despite the direction from Zeus, who was angry with his sons, intervened in their situations.
The setting was familiar and the author provided a map of High Park and the The Beach (also know by many as The Beaches) areas of Toronto. This map was accompanied by a list, a Dramatis Canes, which provided the name and description of each of the fifteen dogs. As always, I enjoy reading books with local settings.
The physical feel of this book was classic and luxurious with the thick, textured pages. At the back of the novel the process of printing with vegetable based ink on Zephyr Antique Laid acid-free paper is described. The physical nature of the book was exclusive and will be appreciated by the reader.
Overall, the book is very creative, thought-provoking and unlike any other tales I have read. I enjoyed the book and it makes me reflect on my actions and our dog’s, Dixie’s role in our family. We treat her as part of the family and sometimes wonder what she is thinking. I could not help chuckle at the dog who commented on his attraction to eating cat poop or “dog granola bars” as they are known in our house (gross!!)!
This book is unique and a deserving winner of the $100,000 Giller Prize as well as a $25,000 Roger’s Trust Award which posted this video of the author describing his book. The author was born in Trinidad, currently residing in Toronto.
I am looking forward to our book club discussion in March and welcome your comments below!!