Monday, April 18, 2011

Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones

For the March selection of the Tales to Tomes Online Book Club, it was voted to read Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones.  Unfortunately, March brought a number of interruptions to my reading and therefore, I was unable to discuss this book during the month and I am getting my review posted late.  However, now is the time to start chatting as it is a book that can create a lot of chatter!
Sirius, immortal Lord of the Dog Star and infamous for his fiery temper, is outraged when he is falsely accused of murder and banished to Earth. There, he must live -- and die -- in the body of a dog unless he can retrieve a mysterious celestial weapon and thereby clear his name.On Earth, Sirius is adopted by Kathleen, who has no idea that her beloved dog is anything more than an abandoned stray. With only dim memories of the star-world from which he has fallen, Sirius embarks on his mission. But his quest seems hopeless...until at last Sol, Moon, and Earth themselves come to his aid. (From Google Books)

The first item of interest to me was the name of the book as it was such a unique name and I wondered if it maybe had a dual meaning.  When I did a quick google search, this is what I found on Wikipedia:
"A dogsbody, or less commonly dog robber in the Royal Navy, is a junior officer, or more generally someone who does drudge work. A rough American equivalent would be a "gofer" or a "grunt.""
When I read this, it makes total and complete sense as to the reason why the name was chosen!   Afterall, not only was Sirius in a dog's body, but he also had to return to be a "junior officer" to figure out the mystery on his own and learn life from the beginning once again as his punishment.

However, beyond just the meaning of the title, there is so much more to this book.  In fact, if I read it again, I would probably come up with more and more things to talk about.  The few things that I did gather in my first read were cultural and discrimination issues, particularly in regards to the Irish and the history of the IRA.  In addition, the importance of the roles that nature plays, whether it may be Earth or Sun or something beyond our eyesight.  And, the most important theme that resonates the most with me is the importance of friendship, across species, as demonstrated between Sirius and Kathleen.

Dogsbody was my first introduction to Diana Wynne Jones.  I discovered that DWJ has a way of writing that completely hooks the reader.  I just wanted to keep reading because the style of writing was addictive.  I was so sad to hear of her death on March 26, 2011 after a battle with cancer.  The news hit me extra hard as my Grandfather passed only a mere three days before due to his long battle with cancer.  I don't know if it is this connection or her amazing way to hook me with this story or maybe a combination of both, but I really want to read as much DWJ that I can get my hands on.  

Do you have any additional DWJ recommendations for me?  What were your thoughts on this book?


  1. This sounds fascinating! I'd never even heard of this one before. I'll definitely be reading it. Sorry about your grandfather.

  2. This book was my introduction to Diana Wynne Jones too.

    I agree, names are always important in books, whether it's character names or titles.

    Discrimination, especially against the Irish, is a very strong theme in this book, as is the theme of 'blood is thicker than water' (eventually)

    But one of the disturbing aspects of this book is that all of the baddies are women - all three of them.

  3. Jenny ... Thanks for your condolences. Please feel free to come back and share your thoughts after you read it!

    Tracy ... Good point about the baddies! I didn't catch that one right away. There is so much "stuff" in this book!!! Heading over to read your review now since I'm behind on my reader!

  4. As we were discussing it on your blog I didn't get round to writing my own review, Tif - will post one shortly.

  5. Tracy ... I totally figured that out once I checked out my Reader and visited your site! Oops! Sorry about that! Can't wait to read your review when you get it posted!

  6. OK, I've posted ny brief review!

  7. or more generally someone who does drudge work.
    This title also refers to Kathleen, who is the skivvy, the Cinderella-like figure having to do all of the work for her awful, bullying Aunt.

  8. Tracy ... Very good point about Kathleen!!! And, the Aunt is truly like the mean stepmother! I will head over and check out your review soon! Can't wait!

  9. Oh, I hated the stepmother so much! She was just awful. I love that her pottery was awful too though!

    I think your next DWJ read should probably be The Chronicles of Chrestomanci (book one is Charmed Life). You will see a bit of the influence behind Harry Potter in it!

  10. Kristen M. ... I am totally eyeing Chrestomanci, so I will just go for it! And, I love that you mentioned the awful pottery too! So, so true!! Just as horrible as the aunt!


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