Sep 10, 2010

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

by David Wroblewski

I've been reading and reading The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. It started out quite a compelling story, but halfway through I started to loose interest; it was still good, but didn't grip me as much. The writing style became a little boring to me. And I think it was also because I kept thinking about what was coming. I read too many reviews of this one before approaching it; several suggested that it was a modern retelling of Hamlet. At first I didn't see that in the narrative, but once the scene in the rain came up, I started to notice parallels and then couldn't help predicting future events, which unfolded pretty much as I expected them to. The final tragedy was more twisted and complex than I expected, but had the same end result. So to avoid giving another reader the same experience, I'll try not to tell too much here (although perhaps I have already).

So here's the gist of it: Edgar Sawtelle was born mute, on a farm where his family raised dogs. Extraordinary dogs, a completely made-up breed that was based on intelligence and response, not appearance- dogs that were remarkably receptive to human communication and direction. Edgar helped his mother train the dogs, using hand signals; his other main task was to give the new puppies names, searched out of a thick dictionary. Then his uncle showed up on the farm, and had frequent arguments and fights with his father, results of conflict stretching back through the years they grew up together. One day his father died in what appeared to be a freak accident. Grief-stricken, Edgar came to strongly resent the presence of his uncle on the farm. He began to suspect his uncle guilty of his father's death, but his attempts to prove it turned disastrous and Edgar fled the farm with three young dogs. They ran off in the woods, living a vagabond existence, scrabbling for survival. Eventually, Edgar realized he can't keep running, and the desire to get revenge on his uncle made him return to the farm, with every hope of a confrontation.

That's really just the bare bones of the story, there's so much more involved (how else do you get 500+ pages?) A bitter family entanglement, something of a murder mystery, and lots and lots of dogs. A few of the chapters are even narrated from a dog's point of view, which was very interesting. Sound appealing? give it a try. You might be unable to put this book down.

Rating: 2/5 ......... 566 pages, 2008

More opinions at:
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Fresh Ink Books
The Literate Mother
Musing for Amusement
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5 comments:

carolsnotebook said...

This one just never catches my eye. Doesn't sound like one I'd enjoy.

bermudaonion said...

I've kind of avoided this one since a good friend of mine said she couldn't finish it. I guess she gave up when the writing got dull.

Jenny said...

I'm never very interested (oh, dear, this sounds awful) in books set on farms. I get stressed thinking about how bad I'd be at farms. Plus, I've had several friends say they weren't able to make it through Edgar Sawtelle, so I believe I'll be giving it a miss.

Sandy Nawrot said...

People are hot and cold on this one. I personally was rendered speechless and suffered afterward with a really bad case of "dog sadness". There isn't a week that goes by I don't miss my Lab, but after this book I was almost inconsolable. Bummer that it didn't rock your world.

I received my bookmarks today, and they are WONDERFUL! My daughter wanted one and I wouldn't share.

Zibilee said...

I bought this book when it first came out in hardcover, and then put it on the shelf to wait for me. I then had the same experience, and read way too many reviews that gave most of the plot away, and now I am just not that thrilled to read it. I probably will eventually, but most of the suspense has been ruined for me. It really stinks when that happens!