THE GIRL WITH DOGS by ANNA FUNDER

December 24, 2017 at 7:18 am Leave a comment

Bookgroupers liked Anna funder’s new one. they said the writing was clear and easy. It was very true to life, an accurate depiction of familiar urban middle class 21st century family life. At the start i felt a little too much so. The opening scene felt quite cliched, like one of the millions New York family sit coms dramas and movies we have all seen. But it soon became more real and interesting.

Partly this was because it turned out to be set in Sydney which made it way more interesting to me as a Sydney resident, but there was a deeper reason. Although it is a middle class family drama, and inevitably the central issue is infidelity, the treatment is novel. It is written from the point of view of the wife so we know what she did and didn’t do, and thought. We dont know what the husband did or did not do, or what he thought, other than how the wife describes his actions.

This approach clearly allows each reader to make their own assumptions about what actually happened, and who is in the wrong or right. Most importantly it allows the reader to choose different endings. Its a short story and ends quite abruptly without detailing the resolution with any certainty, so you can make up your own happily ever after or not ending.

Most of us enjoyed it because although it was going over a well ploughed literary field – relationships and infidelity – it was much more nuanced than most. It was about exploring in your mind other alternatives from the family and the relationship that you choose, but not necessarily acting on those thoughts.

Most enjoyably for me it did not insist that the main characters, or the couple, have ‘issues’ and that they talk about them endlessly. It was very refreshing to read a relationship story in which both characters had enough information to lead to conclusions of infidelity on the part of their partner, although no certainty, but the reader was not forced to wade through lengthy torturous discussions about their ‘issues’.

Instead, the story implies, to me anyway, that they both decided to leave it alone and just get on with life. They both seem to conclude that she/he thought about it but chose me. I thought about but chose him/her. So its all good – as we sydneysiders say.

This outcome was made more satisfying by a passage in the middle of the story which briefly outlined a number of the relationship travails of the other middle aged middle class friends of the couple. To me this seems to provide the context for her choice. She thought about change and uncertainty but chose stability, partly because she had many friends that had gone the other way and it did not necessarily look appealing.

Finally it is supposed to be an homage to, or reflection on, the chekov short story with the a similar, name – the lady with a dog. It is published with that story but none of us read both to compare

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Entry filed under: australian, fiction, food, short story.

SATURDAY by IAN McEWAN THE GOOD PEOPLE by HANNAH KENT

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