Myths are fascinating things, aren’t they? For thousands of years, they have captured the imaginations of mankind – old or young, educated or less so, myths have a way of connecting with the essence of what it means to be human, with a fantastical and engaging twist.
It comes as no surprise, then, that for years authors have tried to re-invent this mystical wheel of storytelling. How can they capture that universal tone carried by all great myths? How can they make a style, which is millennia old, feel fresh and modern? How can they show humanity in n new, engaging light?
For Andre Alexis, the answer is simple: Write a story about Fifteen Dogs.
What if dogs could think like humans?
For Hermes, the idea is marvellous. For Apollo, he wagers that the dogs would all die as miserable as the intelligent humans around them.
With the deal made, the Gods grant human consciousness to fifteen dogs in Toronto, spending the night at a vet.
Suddenly with the ability to think for themselves, the pack are sent on a dividing journey. Amongst themselves. Amongst the “old ways” of the dogs. And, unbeknown to them, amongst the Gods themselves.
This slightly ridiculous premise surprised me with its depth, emotional power and, to be honest, rather gruesome scenes. Though he imbues dogs with human intelligence, Alexis never forgets to remind his reader that the dogs, regardless of their growing moral compass’, are animals.
The book is dripping with sensory language, as we experience the world through the eyes and snout of the dogs, in all of its intriguing – albeit, occasionally brutal – beauty.
Each dog, while leaning towards the archetypes of myth, doesn’t fail to leave an impression on you. From the trickster, to the fool, to the maiden, to the tragic hero, to the authoritarian leader, all of the dogs are memorable and relatable the way good mythical characters are. Even the real mythical characters, Hermes and Apollo, got a few laughs from me for their nonchalant attitudes to the plight of humanity.
What I really admire about this book is its narrative voice; though the story is set in a city, the tone and atmosphere is dripping with the echoes of a myth. Third person and omniscient, making poignant asides to the reader that never fail to intrigue, nor do they get in the way of the plot. Andre Alexis has created a perfect blend between myth, modern life, and the absurdibity of human thinking, while providing an engaging story of love, loss, humour and tragedy.
If you are a fan of magic realism, Greek Myths, or modern re-tellings of classic stories, I cannot recommend this book enough. In its own way, Fifteen Dogs is a modern book of myths – one which I will no doubt return to again and again.
Have you read Fifteen Dogs? Or any other modern re-tellings of classical stories. Feel free to let me know @ERHollands, or leave a comment below. The more books, the better!