Posted by: Lisa Hill | November 8, 2008

The Lost Dog (2008), by Michelle de Kretser

lost-dogThe Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser was a big disappointment. This is one I was looking forward to because I loved The Hamilton Case and The Rose Grower, and it’s been nominated for many prestigious awards, but TLD was, frankly,  a plod to get through.

It’s about a man called Tom who’s lost his dog in the bush. This is a bit harrowing for a dog lover because de Kretser keeps reminding us that it’s on a leash and so is likely to have strangled itself. Preferable perhaps to starvation, because it’s quick, but not nice to think about.  Anyway, running alongside Tom’s trips to the bush to look for the dog are his thoughts about various relationships. These are a muddle, suffering badly from the current craze for interweaving time, plot, and character so that you can’t keep track of anything. Well done, it’s interesting and intellectually stimulating.  In TLD, it’s very irritating.

And so is the self-conscious prose, lyricism laid on with a trowel. Endless ‘arresting’ images that by half way through the book have lost any power to engage this reader’s imagination. I became so sick and tired of things like ’socked’ feet (who cares if he’s wearing socks?), ’surreal assemblages’ referring to hard-rubbish collections, and ‘dystopic chambers furnished with soiled carpet squares and disembowelled futons’.  There’s also a most unpleasant thread about Tom’s elderly mother Iris, and her difficulties keeping herself clean as she ages.

Alas, de Kretser’s list of acknowledgements reveals that she was ‘helped’ by a distinguished list of Australian authors, including Gail Jones *sigh* and  Chris Wallace-Crabbe. I assume that the other names that I don’t recognise are also proponents of sledge-hammer symbolism and tortured plot construction. I see Jones’s sticky fingers all over this book, and it’s a pity that de Kretser has taken this path with her writing. I shan’t buy her books again.

Well, maybe. The Rose Grower was a most enjoyable book, and I was very disappointed when The Hamilton Case didn’t win the Commonwealth Writers Prize after it had won the regional award.

Other reviews of TLD are at Asylum, The AgeMatilda and The Mookse & the Gripes.

PS Maybe you shouldn’t take any notice of my thoughts: in 2008 it was awarded the New South Wales Premier’s Literary AwardsChristina Stead Prize for fiction and Book of the Year for The Lost Dog, and it was also longlisted for the Booker.

Update: Of course I bought her next book.  And I loved it.  See my review of Questions of Travel here.

Author: Michelle de Kretser
Title: The Lost Dog
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, 2008
Source: personal copy, purchased from Readings $35.00

Fishpond: The Lost Dog


  1. Responding to your comment in SMH books blog: you read a lot more of the wretched book than I did and I’m grateful to you for that! It saves me wondering whether or not I should give it another go. Very interesting comments. thanks


  2. You’re welcome, hatarimouse, and thank you for taking the trouble to comment:)


Please share your thoughts and join the conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: