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The Lost Dog

by Michelle de Krester


Professor Tom Loxley is a Jamesian scholar at an Australian university. He rents Nellie Zhang's cabin in the bush for a long weekend to finish his book, Meddlesome Ghosts: Henry James and the Uncanny; but when he is preparing to leave for home, his dog flushes a wallaby and runs away dragging a 20-foot rope. For the next nine days Loxley tries to take care of his day-to-day responsibilities as well as returning to look for the missing dog.

Author Michelle de Kester is a Jamesian scholar in her own right, not by duplicating the Masterís style, but by taking the elements of James and making them new. The theme of conflict between white Australians and Tom and Nellie's Asian backgrounds (India and China) parallels James' examination of culture shock between 19th C Americans visiting Europe and their hosts. James also believed that authors should take whatever steps necessary to tell their tale and express their vision of the world. The Lost Dog uses open-ended storylines, character flashbacks, and stream of consciousness, which frequently modulates into a pseudo-lecture directed at the reader. But the best example of this type of artistic freedom is Nellie. She paints a picture, makes her collage or shadow box, and then has the object photographed, after which she destroys the original and displays the photograph!

This book was difficult for me to read for the same reasons I have never been able to read Henry James well. I found conflicting duality at every turn. For example I didn't like the book, but I enjoyed many of the things in it. On the same page it could be interesting and boring, philosophical and base, excruciatingly detailed and myopically ambiguous. The writing style varies between straightforward narrative and overwhelming passages of lyrical prose that are beautiful, but distracting to the story (another nod to James). I spent a long time trying to figure out why all of the people and histories signified, and in the long run I donít think they do; but at least I think I understand what happened to the dog.

The Book

Back Bay Books
August 13, 2009
0316001848 / 978-0316001847
Fiction - Literature
More at
NOTE: Australian Book of the Year Award

The Reviewer

Beth E. McKenzie
Reviewed 2010
© 2010