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.