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Friday, December 29, 2006

cover of Dogsbody

In a world where stars have denizens known as luminaries, Sirius, the dog-star, is on trial for destroying another luminary and misusing a powerful Zoi. Because the details are hazy, Sirius is punished by being sent to Earth in the form of a dog to look for the missing Zoi that fell somewhere to England. There, he is adopted by Kathleen, a young Irish girl who is living with her uncle's family because her father is in prison in Ireland. In dog form, Sirius grows from a puppy into a dog and learns to understand English, and carefully begins to search for the missing Zoi. As he does, he becomes more acquainted with the beautiful and surprisingly powerful Earth, with all its strange and wonderful children, and Sol, the luminary of Earth's solar system. It's a wonderful story told from a dog's perspective, but there's also so much more because of the larger vision of a cosmos inhabited by effulgent beings which are something like angels.

In some ways, this book offers a wonderful picture of incarnation. A luminous, powerful being is sent to Earth in the flesh and blood form of a helpless puppy. And even though Sirius is so powerful in his natural state, he is limited by his new form-- especially when he is a puppy. He has both a dog nature and a green, powerful nature that doesn't quite fit into his dog body. But he is also able to learn many things from being a dog; one thing that got Sirius into trouble during the trial was his horrible temper, and as a dog he has to learn to control himself-- partly because the humans have power over him and could have him destroyed, but more often because he doesn't want to make things worse for Kathleen, who he quickly comes to love. As a dog, he also learns to read people-- which ones are kind and likely to give a dog scraps, and which ones are cold and heartless, likely to kick a dog (such as Duffie, Kathleen's aunt who makes her do all the housework). Eventually, Sirius discovers that his luminary Companion (the denizen of the smaller, pearly star in orbit near the green dog-star) is the latter, only he never recognized it when he himself was a luminary.

At one point, Sirius gets Kathleen to read an astronomy book aloud to him-- and he's surprised that humans have any picture at all of the universe, even though it bears only minimal relation to his real home. And just as the stars are beings in this world, so too are the moon and Earth. They help out Sirius as they can, and he learns how powerful and rich (and beautifully green) Earth is-- and also comes to know the power inherent in being a child of Earth. Eventually, Sirius comes face to face with one of Earth's darker children: Arawn, Lord of the Underworld. This portrait of a powerful, dark, suffering being is quite masterful, and adds interesting depth to Jones' story, suggesting that there is more going on, more than we can see or perceive both out in the stars as well as deep under the earth.

Author:Diana Wynne Jones
Date published:1975
Number of pages:261
Notes:repeat reading


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