20 October, 2016

Lily and the octopus by Steven Rowley


As a rule I don’t write reviews for books that already have the spotlight upon them. After all, why bother? Clearly people have heard about this book and are already on board. This book is the exception.

So when I finished this book, I had to just stop and savour its magnificence. Absolutely heart-breakingly beautiful, funny, sad, whimsical. It was like a literary gastronomical event. I haven’t wanted to read anything else for nearly a week now, that’s how reluctant I was to let this book go.

This is a story narrated through the world view of Ted, single, socially isolated and sharing his life with his dachshund Lily. Lily and Ted converse. Thursday nights they talk about the merits of good looking boys, which actor is superior in looks and charisma. Lily has an octopus on her head, Ted has just noticed it; this is how the story begins.

Of course we know it's not an octopus, it's just a tumor and its connotations are downright ugly. In a superstitious bid to stave it off, an octopus becomes the creature taking up illegal residence on Lily’s head. The evil eight legged one converses with Ted, lazily refuses to move or even offer up any paltry sort of explanations as to why it is there.

What ensues is battle of wills, an epic Herculean quest to save Lily, to rid her of the octopus and in the interim, savour every moment in case the unthinkable happens.

We have Melville references, Murakami’s flair for introducing the fantastical into the every day, as in conversing with animals. If the thought of this just seems fundamentally wrong, clearly you are not an animal person and are unaware of the rich conversations it is possible to have with your four legged companions.

I love everything about this book, not the least bit smaltzy, or reliant on the tired old tropes to bring on the tears. After all, you know from the first page we’re dealing with the big C, no surprises there. I found myself approaching the final chapters and I just had to finish it, I could not put it off.

It was rush hour in the staff cafeteria and I sat with paper towels in hand mopping up those tears that just would not stop. What a book! What a writer! Best book of the year for me. Sigh, is it really over, can I start again?

Title: Lily and the Octopus
Author:  Steven Rowley

Reviewed by: Sue W (Central Library)

Sue W loves her fur babies equally but differently and used to administer time out to think about bad behaviours. However, since Patrick the fox arrived, she can no longer lock a miscreant in the spare room least Patrick is set upon.

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