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Stanley and Sophie by Kate Jennings
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Stanley and Sophie

by Kate Jennings

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I am usually disappointed with memoirs about animals, and, I was really left flat after this effort, in fact I don't think that there was much love lost for her dogs at all. Being a devoted animal lover I found this book so void of true emotion and love, it lacked affection completely. Not one of my favorites, and I will not recommend it to friends either.... ( )
  LadyBlossom | Aug 4, 2009 |
In her recent writing, Kate Jennings has established a persona who acknowledges her Australian origins but is a literary New Yorker to her bootstraps. This book is a memoir dealing with two dogs she acquired soon after her husband died in similar circumstances to the husband of the heroine of her novel Moral Hazard. There's a clue on how to read it in an early chapter, where she recalls trying to persuade her elderly father to get a puppy, threatening to have someone dump one on his doorstep, and he astonishes her by weeping.

I would remember times when he was in great distress, but never tears.
'What's wrong, Dad?'
'I had to shoot all my dogs, and I never want to do that again.'
I absorbed this remark, the shock of those tears. When conversation takes a serious turn, Australians throw vats of boiling, spitting oil over one another in the form of humor [sic]. They are not denying their emotions; they are obliterating them. 'Dad,' I said, 'I think this time it'll be the other way around. The dogs are going to have to shoot you.'

The memoir is full of facts about border terriers, enough to make most people resolve to have as little to do with them as possible. It drops in references to many writers: Thomas Mann (German) and Joe Ackerley (English) loom large, and Bob Dylan offers a surprisingly sweet comment about Old Yeller. There is copious Newyorkana, interrupted by an excursion to Bali. Four people told me the book was so slight as to be hardly worth reading, and I almost took them at their word. Having read it, I couldn't agree less. It may be light. It may go on about the cuteness of dogs and (in Bali) monkeys. It may never come right out with effusive expressions of grief or inspirational Kubler-Ross stages. But it tackles exactly the difficulty with serious emotion named in the quote above, and makes it look easy. A cranky review once described another of Kate's books as a kind of ode. This book, too, is a kind of ode: light, spare, witty, poised, allowing hard emotion to well up from the depths. Kate would never have been so crude as to use this metaphor, but her scruffy border terriers, ratters from way back, burrow down into a dark hole in her Riverina stoicism and New York cool and bring back rich, direct heartfelt emotion. ( )
  shawjonathan | Feb 3, 2009 |
I thought this would be a great read and am disappointed that it wasn't. Jennings finds new homes for her dogs, Stanley and Sophie - this is the story of how both dogs and author readjust ( )
  khollis | Oct 30, 2008 |
I usually love Kate Jennings sharp wit, but this really is a book for dog lovers only. There is potential, but the fantastic raw honesty that glints through in parts is overwhelmed by the minutiae of detail on dog ownership in NY. At times this is twee and indulgent, and it feels as though this is the book Kate Jennings is writing instead of the book she is capable of writing. ( )
  placing | May 31, 2008 |
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?Because Stanley came into my life in 2001 and Sophie in 2004, this is a tale, tangentially, about Manhattan in those first confounding years of the new millennium. Years when our lives were a rhubarb of noisy emotion: a devil ?s chorus of fear, blatting rage, birring anxiety, tweedling incredulity, roupy sorrow. ? This is a book that woofs. Ostensibly an animal book, it ?s about two beloved border terriers in New York City and two monkeys in Bali. It is also a book about terrorism, about grieving, about finding one ?s way through sadness, and about remaking a life.… (more)

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