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The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: A Novel (Oprah…
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The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: A Novel (Oprah Book Club #62) (edition 2008)

by David Wroblewski

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6,263342641 (3.74)330
Member:TanyaPMills
Title:The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: A Novel (Oprah Book Club #62)
Authors:David Wroblewski
Info:Ecco (2008), Edition: 1ST, Hardcover, 576 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:None

Work details

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

  1. 10
    What the Deaf-Mute Heard by G. D. Gearino (Bookshop_Lady)
    Bookshop_Lady: Coming-of-age stories, family secrets, loss of parents - both wonderful books.
  2. 00
    The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig (chndlrs)
  3. 00
    Undiscovered Country: A Novel by Lin Enger (1morechapter)
    1morechapter: Another take on the same story.
  4. 00
    The Maestro: A Novel by Tim Wynne-Jones (LDVoorberg)
    LDVoorberg: If you read and liked The Maestro as a teen, as an you'll probably like at least Part 2 of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle because of the adventure/survival aspect to the plot.
  5. 00
    The Turtle Warrior: A Novel by Mary Ellis (Ciruelo)
    Ciruelo: Both novels feature a sympathetic young man as the main character, an isolated rural setting, and a ghost.
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» See also 330 mentions

English (334)  Dutch (3)  German (1)  Catalan (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  All languages (340)
Showing 1-5 of 334 (next | show all)
Beautiful prose, but it sounded too much like the author had no idea where he was going too many times. He must have come up with the Macbeth idea only after having started the writing. ( )
  tabascofromgudreads | Apr 19, 2014 |
Beautiful prose, but it sounded too much like the author had no idea where he was going too many times. He must have come up with the Macbeth idea only after having started the writing. ( )
  tabascofromgudreads | Apr 19, 2014 |
I’m having a hard time explaining how I feel about this one. It’s been a long time since a book so completely enraptured me and then utterly broke my heart. For starters, it is so beautifully written and it’s a tribute to the writer’s skill (I still can’t believe this is the author’s first novel), that I became so attached to the characters, especially the dogs. I’ve always been an animal lover and I have a really hard time with anything bad happening to animals in books, (Where the Red Fern Grows, The Yearling.) I’m particularly sensitive to cruelty to dogs and horses for some reason and so there were a few parts that were hard for me to read. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a book about cruelty towards animals, but the dogs are main characters in the book and there are some tough scenes. I’ve never read a book that expressed the psychology of a dog in such a vivid way.

Edgar is born mute to devoted parents who own a unique dog breeding and training company in Wisconsin. From the earliest chapters, where we meet Edgar’s parents Trudy and Gar, the story hooked me completely. It’s a slow moving novel, one that you sink into and hardly notice when 100 pages have past. The story is a loose retelling of Hamlet. The local vet, Doctor Papineau is Polonius, his son is the county sheriff and fills the role of Laertes. Edgar’s loyal dog, Almondine, is a twist on Ophelia. Now keep in mind that it’s not an exact retelling and so not all of the characters share the fates of their Hamlet counterparts, but knowing the general story in advance certainly cloaks the entire novel in a layer of portentousness.

The moments where the story was the most closely aligned with Shakespeare’s original tale were actually the sections that I thought didn’t work as well as the rest of the book. Maybe because it took the mystery out of it or maybe because it’s such a strong story in its own right, that adding a supernatural element and relying heavily on the revenge tale took away from the powerful characters Wroblewski created in the Sawtelle family.

It’s strange, the book could absolutely have 200 pages cut from its bulk to move the story along at a faster clip, but at the same time, the quiet moments where very little happened were some of my favorites. When Edgar is with his dogs, training or spending time with them, that’s when I felt the most connected to him as a character. When the plot was rolling forward with its tone of impending doom, headed inevitably towards the Hamlet conclusion, those were my least favorite parts. They felt a bit more forced, like they were violating the actions we had grown to expect from certain characters.

BOTTOM LINE: I couldn’t put it down, even when I was worried about a character or heartbroken over a scene, I still didn’t want to let it go. I almost felt tense while reading certain sections, but then I would relax into the comfortable comradery Edgar had with the dogs. It’s one of the most unique reading experiences I’ve had in a long time and I know I’ll be thinking about Edgar, Almondine, Tinder, Essay and Baboo for a long time. The only reason it didn’t get 5 stars is because I can’t imagine putting myself through reading it again.

“From the look on his face I could see he was one of the lucky ones; one of those people who liked doing what they’re good at. That’s rare.” ( )
  bookworm12 | Mar 14, 2014 |
interesting story, got me interested. Bad ending very disappointing. ( )
  njcur | Feb 13, 2014 |
I loved "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle." The writing is beautiful. The settings are detailed and gorgeous. I loved the fanciful elements and found it hard to put down.

I'd have given it five stars, except it seemed to me that the ending was written to maintain the author's references to "Hamlet," as opposed to being truly earned by the story as it's told here. ( )
  PetreaBurchard | Feb 9, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 334 (next | show all)
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is a dutiful procession through the main events of [Hamlet]. The Mousetrap scene, in which Edgar trains his dogs to act out his father’s murder in front of Claude, is marvelous—Wroblewski loves writing about dogs and he’s great at it—but the other pages are still covered by translucent drafter’s blueprints. Here’s Polonius, the meddler, here’s Laertes, the avenging son, and so on. (The Laertes figure isn’t introduced until page 489 and he’s as puzzled as the rest of us about why he’s supposed to kill a fourteen-year-old boy.) Wroblewski is only at pains to apply himself when there’s a chance his characters might become complicated and unsympathetic.
 
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, all 566 pages, is surprising and rewarding. It's worth savoring, both its story and its storytelling.
added by Katya0133 | editUSA Today, Bob Minzesheimer (Jun 19, 2008)
 
High literary art from a talent that bears watching.
added by Katya0133 | editBooklist, Ian Chipman (Jun 1, 2008)
 
This is the best book I've read in a long time.
added by Katya0133 | editPublishers Weekly (May 19, 2008)
 
[A] spellbinding first novel . . .
added by Katya0133 | editKirkus Reviews (Apr 15, 2008)
 

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
David Wroblewskiprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lill, DebraCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Poe, RichardNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saltzman, AlisonCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved. ~Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species
Dedication
For Arthur and Ann Wroblewski
First words
After dark the rain began to fall again, but he had already made up his mind to go and anyway it had been raining for weeks.
Quotations
High in the crown of a charred tree, an owl revolved its dished face, and one branch down, three small replicas followed.
He thought of his father standing in the barn doorway peering skyward as a thunderstorm approached, while his mother shouted, ‘Gar, get indoors, for God’s sake.’ That was how it was, sometimes. You put yourself in front of the thing and waited for whatever was going to happen and that was all. It scared you and it didn’t matter. You stood and faced it. There was no outwitting anything. … It was not a morbid thought, just the world as it existed. Sometimes you looked the thing in the eye and it turned away. Sometimes it didn’t.
He’d left in confusion, but his return was clarifying. So much of what had been obscure while he faced away was now evident. … So much of the world was governed by chance. … Life was a swarm of accidents waiting in the treetops, descending upon any living thing that passed, ready to eat them alive. You swam in a river of chance and coincidence. You clung to the happiest accidents—the rest you let float by. … Some things were certain—they had already happened—but the future would not be divined. … The future was no ally. A person had only his life to barter with.
Most people thought training meant forcing their will on a dog. Or that training required some magical gift. Both ideas were wrong. Real training meant watching, listening, diverting a dog’s exuberance, not suppressing it. You couldn’t change a river into a sea, but you could trace a new channel for it to follow.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0061768065, Hardcover)

Amazon Best of the Month, June 2008: It's gutsy for a debut novelist to offer a modern take on Hamlet set in rural Wisconsin--particularly one in which the young hero, born mute, communicates with people, dogs, and the occasional ghost through his own mix of sign and body language. But David Wroblewski's extraordinary way with language in The Story of Edgar Sawtelle immerses readers in a living, breathing world that is both fantastic and utterly believable. In selecting for temperament and a special intelligence, Edgar's grandfather started a line of unusual dogs--the Sawtelles--and his sons carried on his work. But among human families, undesirable traits aren't so easily predicted, and clashes can erupt with tragic force. Edgar's tale takes you to the extremes of what humans must endure, and when you're finally released, you will come back to yourself feeling wiser, and flush with gratitude. And you will have remembered what magnificent alchemy a finely wrought novel can work. --Mari Malcolm

Book Description

Born mute, speaking only in sign, Edgar Sawtelle leads an idyllic life with his parents on their farm in remote northern Wisconsin. For generations, the Sawtelles have raised and trained a fictional breed of dog whose thoughtful companionship is epitomized by Almondine, Edgar's lifelong friend and ally. But with the unexpected return of Claude, Edgar's paternal uncle, turmoil consumes the Sawtelles' once peaceful home. When Edgar's father dies suddenly, Claude insinuates himself into the life of the farm--and into Edgar's mother's affections.

Grief-stricken and bewildered, Edgar tries to prove Claude played a role in his father's death, but his plan backfires--spectacularly. Forced to flee into the vast wilderness lying beyond the farm, Edgar comes of age in the wild, fighting for his survival and that of the three yearling dogs who follow him. But his need to face his father's murderer and his devotion to the Sawtelle dogs turn Edgar ever homeward.

David Wroblewski is a master storyteller, and his breathtaking scenes--the elemental north woods, the sweep of seasons, an iconic American barn, a fateful vision rendered in the falling rain--create a riveting family saga, a brilliant exploration of the limits of language, and a compulsively readable modern classic.

Double Life, with Dogs: An Amazon Exclusive Essay by David Wroblewski

We write the stories we wish we could read. There's no other reason to do it, to spend years pacing around your basement, mumbling, pecking at a keyboard, turning your back on a world that offers such a feast of delicious fruits. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle came about because some time ago I wished I could read a novel about a boy and his dog, one that integrated our contemporary knowledge of canine behavior, cognition, and origins with my experience of living with dogs; if possible, something flavored with the uncynical Midwestern sense of heart and purpose so familiar from my childhood (and something which, in truth, I've spent much my adult life being slightly ashamed of, as if either heart or purpose were embarrassing attributes for a grown-up to display). I'd recently come to know a good dog, maybe the best dog I'd ever met, and the subject of people and dogs and ethics and character suddenly seemed urgent. But when I went looking for such a story, I had to go back almost a hundred years, back to Jack London's Call of the Wild. That was a surprise. A little while after that, an idea for a story came to me--not the whole thing, but enough to start.

Continue Reading Double Life, With Dogs

Praise from Stephen King

"I flat-out loved The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, and spent twelve happy evenings immersed in the world David Wroblewski has created. As I neared the end, I kept finding excuses to put the book aside for a little, not because I didn't like it, but because I liked it too much; I didn't want it to end. Dog-lovers in particular will find themselves riveted by this story, because the canine world has never been explored with such imagination and emotional resonance. Yet in the end, this isn't a novel about dogs or heartland America--although it is a deeply American work of literature. It's a novel about the human heart, and the mysteries that live there, understood but impossible to articulate. Yet in the person of Edgar Sawtelle, a mute boy who takes three of his dogs on a brave and dangerous odyssey, Wroblewski does articulate them, and splendidly. I closed the book with that regret readers feel only after experiencing the best stories: It's over, you think, and I won't read another one this good for a long, long time.

In truth, there's never been a book quite like The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. I thought of Hamlet when I was reading it, and Watership Down, and The Night of the Hunter, and The Life of Pi--but halfway through, I put all comparisons aside and let it just be itself.

I'm pretty sure this book is going to be a bestseller, but unlike some, it deserves to be. It's also going to be the subject of a great many reading groups, and when the members take up Edgar, I think they will be apt to stick to the book and forget the neighborhood gossip.

Wonderful, mysterious, long and satisfying: readers who pick up this novel are going to enter a richer world. I envy them the trip. I don't re-read many books, because life is too short. I will be re-reading this one."

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:01:50 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

A tale reminiscent of "Hamlet" that also celebrates the alliance between humans and dogs follows speech-disabled Wisconsin youth Edgar, who bonds with three yearling canines and struggles to prove that his sinister uncle is responsible for his father's death.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 7 descriptions

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