Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (2008)

David Wroblewski has written this retelling of Hamlet in a setting of a small dog breeding farm in Winsconsin starring the only son of Gar and Trudy Sawtelle, Edgar, who was born perfect in every way except that he was totally mute. Gar dies, apparently of a heart attack, and his brother, Claude, helps to fill in for the father, both in the business, and in Trudy's life. Understandedly, this does not please Edgar. Like Hamlet, Edgar plans a way to let his uncle know that he is under suspicion for Gar's death.

First, tell them the dogs see everything that happens here, he signed.
Just say it. Say they see everything and they never forget. You'll understand in a minute.
He stood and waited. He thought his mother might ignore his request, but she turned to Mr. Benson and Claude and Doctor Papineau. "Edgar says to tell you that the dogs see" -- she faltered for a moment, then continued -- "That they see everything that happens here, and they never forget."
Edgar was standing before the dogs, looking down the line to make sure they didn't break. He touched Opal under the chin. She looked at him. He released her and she dashed down the aisle to the four of them standing by the workshop. Then he pulled one of the syringes from his shirt pocket. His hand was shaking and as the syringe came out, it snagged another which went clattering to the floor. He snatched it up and placed it in Baboo's mouth.
Tag, he signed. Then he turned to watch.
Baboo trotted down the aisle with the syringe in his mouth. Edgar kept his eyes on Claude, who had caught sight of the syringe. When Baboo reached them, he pressed his nose into Opal's hip, and Opal looked toward Edgar. He gave a small gesture with his right hand. She dropped to the floor and lay on her side.
. . .
Claude stood watching it all. He glanced at the open door, then back at the dogs, then at Edgar.

I have to admit I liked this book in spite of myself. It's not the sort I usually read but I found that frequently I would pick it up and lose a lot of time as I followed Edgar and his dogs through this tragedy. I learned about the Hamlet connection towards the middle of my reading and it added another level to the story, trying to remember Hamlet's story. It would be enjoyed by dog lover's for their major parts in the story.

My recommendation for this book: +++

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