I was looking for the next book in my Back to the Classics Challenge, and having a hard time deciding -- I really wanted to read something from my own shelves, but nothing was really speaking to me. Finally, I picked up All the Dogs of My Life by Elizabeth von Arnim, author of the beloved Enchanted April and Elizabeth in Her German Garden, both of which I loved. After reading both of these, I had purchased All the Dogs of My Life, her memoir of the many dogs that she'd owned. Somehow, though, I kept avoiding it. I adore dogs, but I'm a very tender-hearted person, and inevitably, memoirs with pets end up with me bawling my eyes out. They nearly always end up with doggie deathbed scenes that make me cry like a baby. (This is why I've never read Old Yeller or The Yearling.)
But All the Dogs of My Life is very short, just over 200 pages, and there's lots of white space on the pages. I'd just finished more than 500 densely-written pages about Communist China, and was deep in the midst of The Duchess by Amanda Foreman, 400 densely-written pages of history about the 18th century British aristocracy. I love nonfiction but sometimes it's awfully slow.
And Elizabeth von Arnim is just a delightful writer. She's wry, witty, and charming. Most of the book is quite funny, with only a few sad moments. She recounts all fourteen dogs she's had in her life, and describes how she came to have them and all about her life during those periods, ranging from tiny dachshunds to enormous Great Danes. Amazingly, I got nearly all the way through the entire book without even getting choked up. Finally, I was down to the last twenty pages, so I thought I could quickly finish it one morning before I went to work -- and then I was devastated. I won't go into great detail, but once again, a pet memoir had me crying like it was my own beloved dog.
I loved this book and I want to read more of von Arnim's books, but seriously, if you're interested in this book, you'll need some tissues for the final chapter, unless you have a heart of stone, or if you aren't a dog lover, in which case you probably want to avoid this book altogether.
I read this a few years ago and had exactly the same reaction. I thought it was a great way to write a light biography, for me it's definitely one of her better books.ReplyDelete
So far I've only read Enchanted April and Elizabeth in Her German Garden, besides this one. I do have several of her other books on the TBR shelf -- Mr. Skeffington, The Caravaners, and probably one more. I hope to get to them next year.Delete
I have this on the tbr shelves (probably after Hayley recommended it!) but haven't got to it yet. Even though I'm more a cat person than a dog person, I'm sure I'll be in tears at the end if you were.ReplyDelete
I think I need to stop reading pet memoirs, I always end up crying. Of course I cry at the drop of hat anyway -- I've cried during movie previews and commercials. It's really embarrassing.Delete
I definitely need to read this one! Thanks for the warning about the final chapters… will have the tissues ready.ReplyDelete
This sounds like a great gift (you know, the holidays are approaching) for the dog lover on one's list.ReplyDelete
I cry easily too and if you have pets and you love them, you can't help but empathize with the writer's loss.
I'm a complete baby when it comes to pets -- our family's beloved dog passed away more than five years ago and I still get verklempt. But most of the book wasn't sad.Delete
Yes, doggie deathbed scenes can be devastating. Makes Little Nell dying seem like nothing! I've only read Enchanted April, which I found enchanting, and I have Elizabeth In Her German Garden on my TBR shelf...maybe it will go on a challenge list for 2014!ReplyDelete
Have you read any of Thurber on dogs? He was my definitive source for dog stories for years.
I'm actually listening to the audiobook of The Old Curiosity Shop! Of course I know about the demise of Little Nell, so it won't be a complete shock. I'd been putting that Dickens off because it sounded so dreary, and Quilp is a complete creep. But it's much better than I thought.Delete
Elizabeth Von Arnim is great, I have several more on the TBR shelves and should try to get to them next year.
And I have not read any Thurber, other than a wonderful children's book called Many Moons, about a princess who wants the moon. It's delightful.Delete
I've read most of von Arnim's books and I've really enjoyed them. I put off reading this one for quite a while but got to it eventually. I can never forget the trauma of losing my childhood dog and for that reason would never have any again! I tried friending you on Goodreads - no go! Have a great Thanksgiving.ReplyDelete
Sorry you couldn't find me on Goodreads! I'll look and see if I can find you, and I'll send you a friend request.Delete