Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis

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Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A slim book with a massive story that's superbly written. Highly recommended. Box of tissues not supplied.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: November 2015
Publisher: Serpent's Tail
ISBN: 9781781255582

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Gods (and brothers) Hermes and Apollo were arguing in a bar about what would happen if animals had human intelligence and eventually a wager was agreed. Human intelligence would be granted to fifteen dogs staying overnight in a veterinary clinic and the wager, suggested by Apollo, was that Hermes would be his servant for a year if the dogs were not more unhappy than they would have been originally. But - if even one of the dogs was happy at the end of its life Hermes would win.

Now that they were capable of complex thought the dogs had no difficulty in releasing themselves from their cages, but the pack was split between those who resisted the new way in which they could reason - preferring to retain the traditional dog way of thinking - and those who welcomed the change.

I'm a sucker for books about dogs, but this one tore my heart out and then shredded it fifteen times. The wonderful thing about dogs is that they don't worry about what's going to happen tomorrow: they live in the here and now. They communicate with each other largely through body language and an interested human can quickly learn to follow what's happening. The pack now has the 'gift' of the ability to develop their own language and to understand human speech. And they begin to act as human beings do: exiling (or worse) those who think differently. Rules (or are they laws?) are developed: the new way of thinking is banned as being unnatural for dogs.

The stand-out dog for me was Majnoun, who develops a close relationship with a woman who takes him in. The relationship is not of owner and dog, or even of human and dog but more of equals and I reached a point where I wept for Majnoun: the gods can be very cruel. You can read Fifteen Dogs as a story about, well, fifteen dogs, but I found it difficult not to recognise the allegorical nature of the book, to see the way in which humans interact and organise ourselves - and even more difficult to avoid the thought that the dog in his natural state is far superior to the human being.

The writing is superb. Fifteen Dogs is a slim book, but only in terms of physical size. It took me a surprisingly long time to read as there was so much to think about, so much to absorb. Frequently it was heart-wrenching and I had to take a break, but I'm delighted to have read it: it's probably the book which will stay with me the most in 2015.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy of the book to the Bookbag. We also have a review of The Hidden Keys by Andre Alexis.

If you'd like to understand your dog better then we can recommend Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know by Alexandra Horowitz. You might also appreciate Waiting for Doggo by Mark B Mills and Sinful Words by Hesene Mete.

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Buy Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis at


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