Monday, December 22, 2008
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle - David Wroblewski
By now there are endless reviews written and countless accolades predicted for this book. So my review would probably be a needle in the haystack. Anyway, here's my two cents worth. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski captured the imagination of millions in a heartbeat. And its not without reason. Edgar is a mute but highly intelligent 14 year old whose life revolves around dogs. His family has been traditional breeders since the time of his grandfather, John Sawtelle, and Edgar has been blessed with the same gift. His parents, both of whom are trainers, give him a chance to raise and train a litter of pups from the time they born and Edgar is thrilled. His days pass normally enough until the death of his father. The story takes a turn then and Edgar's life is changed forever.
The outline I have given is extremely bare and does not do justice to the vast landscape that Wroblewski paints. Everything and everyone are characters in his book and that includes the sprawling landscape, the dogs, the sky and the rain. His constant companion, Almondine, is imbued with thoughts and dreams and emotions. The rain is an important presence throughout, gaining stronger associations with his father after his death. More than anything, it's the poetry, the sheer smoothness of his writing that keeps you riveted to this book. It doesn't start with anything dramatic and can get a tad slow for the first 30 to 50 pages. And then whoosh! It scoops you up in its arms along with Edgar and his beloved barn with his dogs.
Wroblewski explores the nature of language - its limits, its capacities and its vastness. Edgar is forever scarred by guilt because his muteness renders him incapable of doing more to save his father, according to him. But the same muteness speaks volumes in every other way. Through signs, through a look, through actions. The spoken word is an unrequired appendage in many parts of the book.
There are passages in the book which can bring a tear to the more sensitive readers. Even after I finished the book the images were so powerful that they kept whirling in my head for the rest of the day. Because reading about Edgar is like watching a movie. Wroblewski's debut novel has been a tremendous success partly because of the kind of imagery he induces. The story has undeniable similarities with Hamlet as many a review would point out. The play of emotions and the tangle of thoughts that goes on in Edgar's head, like Hamlet's monologue, is almost palpable. To me its the novel's ability to be at once beautifully simple and astonishingly deep that won my heart.
Verdict: Don't miss this one