4 / 5 Stars
Astute observation of a family with secrets - bloody bleak ending though.
I enjoyed this book, as I enjoy most of Matt Haig's stuff - though I had a few reservations about it. However, overall, it was a clever concept, excellently executed (as always).
Prince is a labrador who is dedicated to the labrador pact - protecting the family above all else. He lives with Adam, Kate, Hal and Charlotte - a seemingly idyllic family who have quite a few secrets. As betrayal, depression and self-loathing start to take over, Prince finds it increasingly difficult to hold them all together.
The situation worsens when Simon, Adam's old friend and best-man, turns up - along with his pretty young wife. Temptation proves too strong for some family members, and Prince's final desperate act to protect the family ends in a fairly hideous manner...
Initially, when I realised the entire book was from the perspective of a dog, I thought it was a bit gimmicky. However, Haig's straightforward, non-pretentious style of writing meant that it didn't veer into over-cleverness - so for the most part, it worked well.
There were many lovely 'doggy' details that added authenticity too - such as getting high off of inhaling the 'smell pile' in the park, and each dog breed having its own personality.
As ever though, the strongest aspect was the characterisation. The family are richly depicted, their emotions explored thoroughly, and their little foibles illustrated to perfection. From teenage Hal's pain when he gets busted for having a party in his parent's absence, to Adam's embarrassing middle-aged fantasy about a younger woman - it's all beautifully relateable, which makes the book much more convincing to read.
However, I did have a few reservations. The ending was a tad over-dramatic, but to be fair, I didn't see it coming. As for the very end itself, god it was depressing! I kind of appreciate why Haig ended it like that - but jeez, it could have been handled a little less bleakly. The take-home message seemed to be 'humanity is screwed whatever you do, so don't bother trying to ever do anything nice for anybody.' As you can probably tell, I wasn't in love with it - and felt it jarred with the relatively upbeat tone of the rest of the book.
But all in all, this was a good read. He's a great writer!