Tuesday, December 20, 2011

All the Dogs of My Life

By Elizabeth von Arnim

A memoir of all the dogs that shared von Arnim's life, starting with Bijou, who she only had for a few weeks before her parents sent the dog away. She later, as a child, briefly had another dog, a Pomeranian, who was also soon sent away. Her parents didn't care for dogs.
It wasn't until she became a woman that von Arnim was able to really have a dog and she did, ending her memoir with dogs 13 and 14, Woosie and Winkie, of which two, Winkie was still with her. Like all dogs, her dogs had their ups and downs, their illnesses and misadventures and their tragic ends.

When she wrote this book, it was intended to be a story of her dogs and not an autobiography. And she kept to her intention, which at times made for rather awkward reading. Maybe she figured her readers would be familiar enough with her to be able to read between the lines. But I found her coy references to her own past to be rather annoying, like when she referred to the appearance of her next husband as her "doom" without ever explaining why he was her doom.
However, she is open about the mistakes she made with her dogs, like leaving one behind in Switzerland for several years and then coming back for it only to find it was dying. And having one neutered and then blaming herself when the dog became fat and lazy. Anyone who has ever had a pet should know those feeling of guilt and regret when the pets have to suffer the consequences of our decisions and failures to act.

Anyway, it was a pretty good book written by a woman who truly did love her dogs even if she made some mistakes along the way. But who hasn't?
She was also the author of Enchanted April, which was made into a very fine movie in the early 1990s.

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