Black Dogs by Ian McEwan is a slim little novel. I must admit that I'm a bit hooked on McEwan's work. His very exact way of describing things would probably drive me crazy were it anyone else's novel, but he does it so skillfully.
The book is about a man learning about his in-laws and trying to get to the core of a single day that drove them apart even though they never stopped loving eachother. The story is told in bits and pieces as he learns more and more from either side.
I really liked how firmly in place this was set. It bounces a bit from England to France and the time frame changes swiftly in places. Each time, I felt firmly anchored in what was being told.
The story hits on two particular points that really reonated with me. The first was that a single turning point in anyone's life is an odd thing and its more likely that they've grasped at one thing to help them explain their changes. This really struck me since this was coming from a novelist who as far as I can tell specializes in telling how a single moment can change the lives of several people. This is his thing! My thought is that single moments can change our lives, but that we never recognize them as such - certainly not while they are happening and even rarely in looking back. We pick what we want to be our moments more so than what they really are (just my two cents!)
His other point was about evil and how its always out there. I admit that this aspect gave me such a chill. It was so very well done.
My quibbles? The dogs. I loved the imagery of them. I loved how they became a family thing. I didn't really think their background story worked. We learn a bit more about them right near the end, and what we learn feels off to me - like it didn't fit the story. Also, the cover, while striking and beautiful, annoys me cause its showing the wrong kind of dogs. They appear to be dobermans, but the story describes the dogs as huge mastiff type dogs. Little details like this bother me.
All in all, it was an interesting read. I can give Mr. McEwan a 6 on this one.
Oh and I had to share this quote from it:
It is photography itself that creates the illusion of innocence. Its ironies of frozen narrative lend to its subjects an apparent unawareness that they will change or die. It is the future they are innocent of. Fifty years on we look at them with the godly knowledge of how they turne dout after all - who they married, the date of their death - with no thought for who will one day be holding photographs of us.