Ballantine, 2007 (2007)
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
n her Preface, psychologist Maureen Adams speaks touchingly of the dog - Cody, a Golden Retriever - who was integral to her own family life, and explains how Cody's loss motivated her to research writers who cared about their dogs and who wrote about their relationships with these
. Though many of these authors were men, Adams was drawn to the women writers, '
who had depended on dogs for emotional support during childhood and in times of transition, because their experiences were closer to my own.
, Maureen Adams combines brief bios of five female literary giants with insights into their relationships with the important canines in their lives: Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her Cocker Spaniel
; Emily Brontė and her Mastiff
; Emily Dickinson and her Newfoundland
; Edith Wharton and a succession of Pekingese ending with
; and Virginia Woolf who relied on several dogs, the last being her spaniel
. Each bio is followed by a chronology of the writer's life. Reading about these women, I was shocked by the extent of the illness and loss (mainly in the deaths of close family members) in their lives, and could see how they might cling to a dog's loyalty and affection.
dams shines her spotlight on all these
, commenting on '
the unsettling similarity between lapdogs and women in Victorian England.
' We learn that
'Flush shone like a beacon in the darkness and gloom of Elizabeth's life
', and that Emily Brontė and the ferocious Keeper '
engaged in a power struggle that captured the attention of all who witnessed it.
' The reclusive Emily Dickinson depended more and more '
on Carlo's quiet strength: "He is dumb and brave."
' Edith Wharton wrote '
My little dog: - / A heart-beat / At my feet.
' Virginia Woolf wrote about the life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's dog
, possibly using the trauma of his dognapping to bring to the surface her own childhood abuse.
n her Afterword, Maureen Adams talks about the benefits that these - and other dogs - bring their owners, from the
that their attachments offer to solace, playfulness and a reconnection to the natural world. Though there are no dogs in my own life, I enjoyed reading about these literary
and highly recommend the book to you.
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