Sunday, March 3, 2013
Book Review: Dog Boy (2009) by Eva Hornung
The strongest aspect of the novel is probably Hornung's unflinching portrayal of Romochka's life as a "dogboy." She doesn't make any part of the feral life cute or charming, and doesn't hesitate to show the grittiest or most savage details. Hornung also does a brilliant job of imagining exactly what such a life would be like, especially the constant conflict between Romochka's human and dog personalities. This conflict is the heart of the novel as Hornung uses Romochka's more than peculiar situation to look at what constitutes families, and the bonds that pull people (and animals) into relationships, tribes, clans and packs. At a few points the idea that animals are innately kinder to each other than humans gets trotted out, and while it's not preachy or obvious, the novel could do without this kind of anthropomorphism. That aside, this has to rate as a one of a kind gem of a novel. It's not pretty or polite, and Romochka isn't always a pitiable character, but Hornung's managed the hugely difficult task of making a wildly improbable concept believable, affecting and viscerally exciting. And for God's sake don't give this book to kids or dog lovers; both demographics will end up in tears and be angry with you for weeks, if not years.