08 December 2009

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (David Wroblewski)

Earhart gave me the push towards this novel and it is probably the best recommendation she has ever given me. We enjoy the same books, but the novels that we absolutely LOVE are always quite different. Of course, the reason I loved this so much is probably because Earhart hasn't actually read it. She just sold it to a bunch of unsuspecting customers when it came out last year.

When I first started reading Edgar I thought to myself "Wow, this is similar in feel to The Outlander." I felt most chuffed when I reached the end of the novel and found an interview with David Wroblewski and Gil Adamson who WROTE The Outlander. I am brilliant.

Edgar tells the story of a young boy who lives on a dog farm with his parents. I'm not sure dog farm is the right term, but it is so much more than a kennel. Edgar's parents raise a special breed of dog- Sawtelle dogs. These dogs are a mix of dogs that Edgar's paternal great grandfather "liked the look of". Whenever he saw a dog that was particularly intelligent and aware he would buy it and breed it into his line of dogs, creating this super race. Combined with a special training technique the family have honed over the years, Sawtelle dogs are highly valued around the country.

Edgar, who was born mute, has a very strong bond with the dogs, probably due to his inability to speak. This bond proves his saving grace when his uncle Claude arrives, fresh out of prison, to live with them. This family reunion ends in tragedy and Edgar is forced to flee into the surrounding forest, several of the dogs following at his heels. What follows is weeks in a relative wilderness as he comes to terms with what he must face back home.

The book is startlingly beautiful. Nothing seems quite real. The characters are slightly heightened; the forest is awesomely majestic and lonely; Edgar's relationship with the dogs seems unearthly, supernatural even. The book clutched at all of my senses, clawing me in to the drama. Wroblewski structured the novel in five acts, like a play, and you can see what this has done to the feel of the story. Slow reading builds to a frenzied turning of the pages as Edgar and Claude are propelled towards a terrible yet magnificent denouement.

The novel has been compared to Macbeth but I see bits of King Lear and even Romeo and Juliet in there as well. Suffice to say Wroblewski most probably found himself inspired by the Bard, a worthy foundation for any novel!

No matter what accolades I give The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, I don't think I can sum it up better than Stephen King's review: "I flat-out loved this book." I did too Stephen.

Rating: 9/10.
Search Engine Submission - AddMe