Doris and I are with you today to discuss a new release contemporary novel that features some major elements of magical realism and at least one characterful dog. As we all know, Shouty Doris is
a big mouth a blabberchops free with her opinions, so I’m warning you now, this review may contain SPOILERS. You have been warned.
We received a copy of Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley from the publisher via Netgalley and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
Combining the emotional depth of The Art of Racing in the Rain with the magical spirit of The Life of Pi, Lily and the Octopus is an epic adventure of the heart.
When you sit down with Lily and the Octopus, you will be taken on an unforgettable ride.
The magic of this novel is in the read, and we don’t want to spoil it by giving away too many details. We can tell you that this is a story about that special someone: the one you trust, the one you can’t live without.
For Ted Flask, that someone special is his aging companion Lily, who happens to be a dog. Lily and the Octopus reminds us how it feels to love fiercely, how difficult it can be to let go, and how the fight for those we love is the greatest fight of all.
Remember the last book you told someone they had to read? Lily and the Octopus is the next one.
So Lily and the Octopus centres around young man and his relationship with his aging dachshund, Lily. Things are going mediocre-ly for Ted, when he discovers an … octopus… on Lily’s head.
Octopus indeed. He’s not fooling anyone.
Yes, well, I’d have to agree with you there, and I don’t think it’s particularly a spoiler to say that the octopus is not a literal octopus but a figurative one, indicative of the fact that Lily is sick. Possibly life-threateningly sick, as frequently happens with pets of a certain age. The point is, Ted refers to this …thing.. as an octopus for almost the whole book and even ends up having conversations with it. Therein lies the magical realism in the story.
Therein lies the lunacy more like. That Ted needs to get out more. He’s far too co-dependent on that dog if you ask me. A grown man, too.
Ted is indeed very invested in his relationship with his dog. He is in between romantic relationships and on discovering the cephalopodic threat to Lily, begins to withdraw from his friends even more. As the book continues, we discover more about the back story as to how Ted came to be Lily’s owner, and a previous life-threatening illness that Lily overcame. We are even privy to his weekly battles with his therapist, Jenny.
Why on earth would you waste money on a therapist for whose opinion you are indifferent? He has more money than sense, that Ted. Anyone who spends money on inflatable sharks needs their head examined if you ask me.
You’ve brought up a good point there, Doris –
All my points are good points.
– because up until about two-thirds into the story, the only bizarre thing about the book is Ted’s unwillingness to address Lily’s octopus for what it really is. Once the book hits the two-thirds mark however, the magical realism is ratcheted up a notch and a number of chapters go full allegorical mode as Ted battles his inner demons on a very strange stage indeed. I shan’t spoil any of that bit for you –
Can I, though?
– no – but I found it to be a bit much for my tastes. It is certainly the most action-packed part of the book and an important turning point for Ted, but by that stage, I knew what the outcome was likely to be, had accepted it, and was just waiting for Ted to do the same.
He was very slow on the uptake, wasn’t he? Everyone knows that any time a cute, cuddly animal appears in a book or film, it’s one hundred per cent certain that it will end up –
THANKS DORIS! I think I hear The Bold and the Beautiful starting! I’ll shut the door so we don’t disturb you!
*Shuffle, shuffle, creak*
Alright, Ridge-y boy, come and tell Doris all about it.
Right, now she’s gone, we don’t have to worry about major spoilers. Although…I have to say that overall, I didn’t particularly connect with Ted as a character, despite his everyman status, apart from the shared experience of pet ownership and the inevitable existential angst – for ourselves or by proxy – with which many of us grapple. I did find this to be an interesting, if not riveting, read and enjoyed how the author at least took a risk on the magical realism aspects to explore the more depressing parts of human existence and its inevitable finality. The ending is hopeful and quite charming really, so if you are a fan of subtly humorous ponderings about the looming demise of each of us as individuals, and you love a cute dog story (for Lily truly is a little cutey, with a distinctive voice) then this would be a great pick.
Until next time,
Bruce (and Doris)