by Carolyn Parkhurst
A grief- stricken husband tries to unravel the cause behind his wife's death. Did she accidentally fall from their backyard apple tree, or jump on purpose? The only witness was their dog, so he (a linguistics professor) attempts to teach the dog to speak. The story is told through Paul's inner thoughts, alternating between memories of his wife Lexy, his puzzled musings over what clues she might have left behind, and his interactions with other people -some sympathetic and tolerant of his odd project, others decidedly strange and threatening- during his search for answers.
I thought this book was going to be mostly about Paul's absurd efforts to get the dog to talk, but instead found I was reading a love story that is also a mystery. The Dogs of Babel is a sad, haunting and intriguing novel. The more Paul reveals as he unfolds his wife's story, the more it becomes apparent that there were darker aspects of her personality he did not know well or understand at all. Motifs of masks and dreams are woven throughout the story, and I also liked how the tale of Tam Lin was included. Parts of the novel disturbed me, especially the scene of Lexy's prom night (only hinted at) and the Cerberus Society Paul gets mixed up with (reminding me of things from Animal Crackers). I kept thinking of The Time Traveler's Wife while reading this book too, though I'm not sure why. Maybe because of how the romance parts are written.
This book has two covers, and I'm not sure which one I prefer; I feel they both strongly illustrate different aspects of the story. I kept picturing to myself a combination of the two, a cover with a venetian mask of a dog, which I think would capture the essence of the novel perfectly.
Rating: 3/5 ........ 264 pages, 2003
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