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The Dogs of March by Ernest Hebert

The Dogs of March (1979)

by Ernest Hebert

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There is beauty here that goes beyond what respect alone could never see or hear.

Some of the dialogue, settings, situations are spot-on perfect . ( )
  nkmunn | Nov 17, 2018 |
Reviewers have noted that in Darby, Ernest Hebert has created New Hampshire's own version of Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County. Howard Elman, the main character in The Dogs of March, and a recurring character in the series is a working man, ignorant in many ways through his near illiteracy. He becomes unemployed, and without health insurance early in the story when the factory he's worked in all his life is sold and the jobs and machinery are moved south. He finds himself in a battle against change and in conflict with the new people moving into the area who have "college degrees and big bank accounts." Zoe Cutter is the newcomer who's bought the property adjacent to Howard Elman's forty acres. Zoe has come from the city with plenty of money and ideas about turning the property into an idyllic New England landscape, and running a country boutique. The junk cars and abandoned machinery that are eyesores to Zoe are as much a part of the landscape to Howard as the trees and the stone walls.

Hebert was probably the first (and may remain the only) author to masterfully, elegantly and genuinely create Granite State natives, working class people, as complete characters not just as caricatures of the stereotypical New England Yankee, used to backdrop bigger stories.

When I think about why The Dogs of March has endured for nearly 30 years, why it remains in print and why I find it as true and relevant now as I did when I first read it, I believe it's because beneath the well drawn characters, the intimate sense of place, and the taut, compelling plot, flowing throughout the story and elevating it to literature is a theme about insiders and outsiders. What has often been called regional fiction isn't regional at all. This is a universal story.

A lot of the authors I love are household names. Ernest Hebert is not as widely known, but he is one of my favorites and may turn out to be one of the best writers you've never heard of -- yet. ( )
  LisaKenney | Jun 2, 2008 |
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Book description
Hebert's debut novel centers around 50-year-old Howard Elman, a mill foreman in Darby, New Hampshire, who, raised a foster child, is now bricked into illiteracy and a rage he cannot articulate. Wife Elenore is a "TV Catholic," faithful to whatever televised masses come over Channel 22 (Kirkus Reviews).
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0874517192, Paperback)

"His life had come to this: save a few deer from the jaws of dogs. He was a small man sent to perform a small task."

Howard Elman is a man whose internal landscape is as disordered as his front yard, where native New Hampshire birches mingle with a bullet-riddled washer, abandoned bathroom fixtures, and several junk cars. Howard, anti-hero of this first novel in Ernest Hebert's highly acclaimed Darby series, is a mixture too.

Howard's battle against encroaching change symbolizes the class conflict between indigenous Granite Staters scratching out a living and citified immigrants with "college degrees and big bank accounts." Like the winter-weakened deer threatened by the dogs of March -- the normally docile house pets whose instincts arouse them to chase and kill for sport -- Howard, too, is sorely beset.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:57 -0400)

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