In this post I am chatting about The Power of a Book and The Power of a Colin the Catepillar Cake…read on dear friend, read on!
The day before book group was my day off work, and thank goodness because I really needed to finish that months read (you may notice a current trend of me not having enough time to do, well, anything and everything!) After reading the very last sentence I understood why my friend who was also attending the group had stressed to me ‘this is a book you must read to the end’, this is a story that plays out until the very last words uttered, and what last words they are!
‘The Power of the Dog’ was written in the 60’s and has recently been rediscovered in a fashion that we were encouraged to think of as reminiscent of the ‘Stoner’ phenomenon. Now I don’t think this has done as well sales wise as Stoner but my goodness, it thoroughly deserves to. In my mind this book has everything, perfectly placed plot (in which again I can only stress the importance of that last sentence *wow*)…(no *wags finger* do NOT take a sneaky peak first). The characters are expertly drawn, they are incredibly nuanced and complex in their very different natures, and like in real life they have their strengths and weaknesses that are played up to and concealed accordingly. Not always plot driven, need more than just a great character? Then BAM, along comes Savage with descriptive writing that has you clearing your throat as you can feel the dust of the land ridden upon, mountains and sky scape so vivid it’s like being handed a photograph.
Another theme you may notice on Dog Eared Reads, other than my constant cries of ‘I need more hours in the day!’, is that I am often introduced to some of my favourite books by my colleague but, first and foremost, friend Emma – she is WISE. Now Emma read ‘Power of the Dog’ and Emma talked about ‘Power of the Dog’ A LOT. I think it is safe to say she fell hook, line and sinker. Displays were made at work, posters stuck up explaining her love and the book rocketed to the top of our fiction charts. I had a niggling feeling I should get round to this read! Luckily for me, it was chosen as the next read for the book group I would be heading up – they say business and pleasure never mix but I am here to tell you they are wrong!
I devoured this book. The times when I couldn’t read in great big chunks became actually distressing to me, I emerged from my lunch break one day with a hand on my stomach feeling frustrated and tense as I’d just had to pause at another chapter. My friend Jess was alarmed saying ‘stop reading this book you look distraught’, and I had to stress to her that no, I just currently felt like I had been punched in the stomach by a plot reveal and that my emotional trauma was due to being parted from the book when I just. needed. the. answers. NOW!!
The story itself is that of two brothers living on their ranch, left to them by their parents who have took themselves off to retire in a hotel suite in a warmer part of the states, in 1920’s Montana. These brothers have lives so intertwined they are like a plait pulled tight, despite now being grown men they still share the same bedroom they have since youngsters. Phil, the older of the two, is an incredibly intelligent man who did well with his education and seems to be able to turn his hand to almost anything he puts his mind to. Speaking of his hands, well, they paint a pretty good picture of his character. Despite the tough work that he so loves to do on the ranch, Phil refuses to wear gloves for protection like all the other men who work for the brothers, taking pride in how he can go without. He looks at the men working for him, saving for the latest Levi’s or chaps and he heaps scorn, he may be one of the richest ranch owners in the area but he is wearing the cheapest shoes. Younger brother George is the total opposite side of the coin, gentle where Phil is tough, uneducated and always struggling against Phil’s brilliant mind. The most important difference though? George has it in him to be kind where as Phil seems hell bent on being cruel.
A chance encounter and a moment of tenderness between George and a woman from the nearest town soon throws the relationship between the two brothers into turmoil. Phil is a man who does not appreciate change and as it creeps into his life he seems prepared to do all that he can to stop it. At points in this book the tension between the characters was so thick, the air between them so stifling, I felt like I had to take a deep breath.
Now as you can probably tell, I seriously liked this book, so now came the time…would book group?! The general consensus was incredibly positive, the over all majority had been very impressed by the novel. There was a couple of folk in the group who had found it so so and were not as drawn in by the characters as others. It was interesting to note the readers who felt this way both said they hadn’t had a chance to get stuck into the book, having to read it a little here and a little there, and that they recognised this could have effected their over all position on the novel. There was also some discussion over the elements of homophobia in the book with maybe a quarter of the group finding this made uncomfortable reading due to what they considered the authors limited portrayal in this area, where as the other three quarters found this an authentic look at the attitudes held at that time.
Now you’re all wondering where Colin the Catepillar comes in right?! By far the biggest debate of the evening centred on the only female character to take centre stage in the novel. Now we know too well it wasn’t an argument but a ‘heated discussion’ as around the table opinions spilled forth on whether this woman was strong and incorrectly made weak by the author or belittled and chipped away at in a circumstance in which many stronger have fallen by a character. As things reached peak Question Time fever pitch a trumpet sounded and Colin the Catepillar cake was presented to all present and calm content over came us all as we stuffed chocolate covered sponge and smarties into our mouths!
So, I would most definitely urge you to read this book, I found every page to be thoroughly engrossing. And the points raised in the book group debate, well then you’ll get to make your own mind up won’t you?! (You’ll have to get your own cake though!)
The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage £8.99 (Vintage)