Strangely enough, we often personify difficult things in order to deal with them so we can spout platitudes like ‘he fought a long battle with cancer’. Cancer becomes the enemy, the soldier on opposing sides of the battlefield. It is meant to be noble to ‘fight’, regardless of the odds, and of how it makes people feel if the ‘battle’ is lost, for we are supposed to fight death, valiantly, not ‘give in’ to it. Oddly, we never say ‘he fought dementia bravely’. I digress.
In this book, the battle is with an ‘octopus’. It’s a good creature to use. No one really likes octopuses, those ugly squidgy cephalopods with tentacles which some people like to eat. Venomous ink-sprayers, the octopus is often presented in mythology as a sea monster. It fits. They look revolting, almost formless; no one feels any love or sympathy for an octopus.
The octopus in this tale is also a monster, a ruthless one which takes over the body of Lily the diminutive dachshund, the much-loved dog of her totally distraught owner, gradually getting to grips with the looming loss of her life.
It’s a sad doggy story about her owner’s endeavours to fight off the monster, whatever it takes, yet ultimately acceding to its power. Having no choice.
If you like a book about real feeling, loss to the point where you feel you’re going insane, and if you are a true animal lover, then this book will grip you hard. It’s authentic, it’s charming. I’m not going to lie, it’s also ever so slightly weird, a tale of the beautiful but ultimately fragile bond between a man (in this case) and his dog, whose owner does at times seem slightly crazy. I’ve come across animal owners who personify their pets before but playing Monopoly with one on a Friday night strikes me as a step too far. However, it is also a book about human loneliness.
Then there is the grief. Anyone who has lost a well-loved pet will be able to journey with Ted, Lily’s owner, from start to finish, on the roller-coaster of emotion that fills his mind during Lily’s last six months.
Genre-wise, the publishers, Simon & Schuster have it down as romance and magical realism which is a fairly accurate representation.
There will be love, in all its guises, there is occasional magic but it ends, appropriately, with reality.