Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs by Lina Wolff and Frank Perry (translator)
|Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs by Lina Wolff and Frank Perry (translator)|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Anna Hollingsworth|
|Summary: Meet the eccentric writer Alba Cambó and the people whose lives she has touched through an equally eccentric collection of anecdotes. Combining the mundane and the magical, this one is a page-turner.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 304||Date: January 2016|
|Publisher: And Other Stories|
Upstairs, a flat where mother and daughter struggle from pay cheque to pay cheque; downstairs, the love nest of a dying writer and her last of many conquests. Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs is a multilayered testimonial to the writer, the eccentric Alba Cambó, gathered by Araceli, the teenager upstairs. Through Araceli's bird's-eye view, anecdotes unfold as told by lovers, business acquaintances (often both – for with Alba Cambó you can never know), and the short stories of Cambó herself.
The testimonial is as much about Cambó herself as the people whose lives she has touched, or in the case of her own characters, created: there is the disillusioned timber trader who finds himself being filmed in an awkward ménage-a-trois, the former factory worker scrubbing floors with gusto to come to grips with her tragic past, the priest accused of paedophilia and burnt to death, and the student set to reveal the inner goddess of his detestable teacher, herself set to establish a relationship with Cambó.
It is a novel that does not lend itself to synopses, and as always with such novels, there is the risk of the eclectic structure resulting in nothing but a poorly woven thread of disparate short stories. However, Wolff manouvres with great skill through her breathtaking multitude of worlds and an equally impressive cast of characters, transporting the reader with admirable ease from the hustle and bustle of Parque Güell to the morbid village of Caudal. The flow of the novel is such that there is no time, or indeed need, for the reader to stop to ask what, if any, the connection between a student taking up prostitution and a dog named after a famous author is – if the novel was an aeroplane, the destination would be unknown but as a passenger, the reader can relax with Wolff in the cockpit.
The page-turner nature of the novel is largely indebted to Wolff's vibrant writing style which delivers to all five senses: the reader can feel, see, hear, taste, and smell all at once the scenes she is invited into, guaranteeing very much a full-on reading experience. The unique depictions of the surroundings provide a hint of magical realism in the vein of Gabria García Márquez to the often so mundane world of prostitutes, minor criminals, and students at schools where no one believes in their future.
To populate these tangible settings, Wolff has succeeded in creating a simultaneously lovable and hateable cast of characters, with an Austen-esque knack to produce comical yet so recognizable character descriptions. It is precisely from this perceptiveness of human nature that the novel derives an underlying feel of dark humour – even the more serious topics do not escape Wolff's wry descriptions and inherently witty use of language.
Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs takes the reader on a roller-coaster from the tragic to the comical, with hints of the mysterious and magical scattered in between – it is a testimonial of a dead person remarkably full of life.
If this book appeals to you, then you might also like to try The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs by Lina Wolff and Frank Perry (translator) at Amazon.com.
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