Dec 7, 2008

The Dogs of Babel

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

Read more opinions at:
Book Chase
A Guy's Moleskine Notebook


  1. I read this book 2-3 years ago and still think about it all the time. I felt sorry for that cerberus society dog. Lexy has been one of the characters who has stayed with me. Paul and Lexy have the loooongest "meet cute" I've ever read! Will there be a movie version of this?

  2. Sounds very intriguing and something I would enjoy reading.

  3. Um, what exactly is "meet cute"?

  4. Anonymous12/07/2008

    sounds pretty... eerie to me.
    but I do think I'd like to read it to find out more about the whole thing. I've seen this book so many times on the shelves at work and I never knew what it was about.
    thanks for the review.

  5. This book has been on my TBR pile for awhile. Maybe it should jump a few spots :)

  6. You shake me up to watch for either of these two covers to be barking at me one day, as I walk through the bookstore!

  7. "meet cute" is when characters meet and it's in an unexpected place and they seem to hit it off immediately with lots of wordplay. They are always seen in romantic comedies.

  8. Ah! I thought it was something like that. Yes, definitely the longest "meet cute" I've ever read!

  9. LOL--the only reason why I know what a "meet cute" is is because of the movie The Holiday. :) Anyway, I didn't realize what this book is about--I'll definitely have to check it out. Sounds like a touching story.

  10. I wonder who made that term up. Yes, it's a very sad story. Mostly sad because of how desperate the husband is to find a reason...

  11. I probably would have never picked up this book before reading this review. I'll look for it.


Comments are screened due to spam.