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After leaving her ex-husband Jonathan, Amy Dodge thought she'd write the Next Big American Novel. Instead she's the author of the highly popular children's series Run, Carlie, Run starring her very own West Highland Terrier Carlie and the fictional Robert Maguire. When Carlie is offered her own TV show, Amy starts to feel a stranger in her own life. Can Amy claw her way back into Carlie's life and can she start to re-love New York City again?
I'd wanted to read City Dog for quite a while and I'm not ashamed to say it was because of the beautiful cover. If you haven't seen it, it features Alison's very own West Highland Terrier Carlie stood on top of a taxi with New York City in the background. Carlie is incredibly cute and was the whole reason I wanted to read the book. Alison offered me the chance to read City Dog and I jumped at it. I finally got around to reading it this weekend and I'm pleased to say the story was just as good as the fab cover.
The book opens with Amy on a date, a date which doesn't work out due to the man's use of a verb (you have to read it to get it). Amy then tells us all about how she met her now-ex-husband Jonathan. Then, as Amy's date finally ends, we meet Carlie. Cue point of view change to Carlie, West Highland Terrier extraordinaire. From then on the book changes points of view intermittently as Carlie becomes a TV star in the making. The book is all told in the first person and we have three narratives: Amy (human), Carlie (Westie) and Robert Maguire (fictional Scottish hero).
You may be slightly confused and wondering why on Earth a dog and a fictional hero would be narrating a novel, but trust me, it works. In fact Carlie's insights made the book for me. I have a Westie and could imagine my dog, Suki, thinking everything Carlie thinks and says. Robert Maguire didn't really work for me, I thought that was a stretch too far, but it didn't hinder my enjoyment of the book. Amy was the more prominent of the three narratives but for me it was Carlie who stole the show. The relationship between Amy and Carlie was wholly believeable - if you have a dog, you'll know - and that's the kind of relationship we have with our two dogs.
Amy was quite puzzling to me, which I found unsettling. I liked her, yes, but I didn't love her. I felt for her when Carlie suddenly became the main focus and she felt left out, but I felt there was something there which was stopping me from fully connecting with her. It was very peculiar as that rarely happens. It was Carlie who carried the story for me. She was essentially the main focus of the book and I loved that. Robert Maguire may provide a narrative but I wouldn't call him a main character, he was just someone who dropped in and gave his opinions once in a while. I quite liked Nick, who Amy meets at the TV studio where Carlie films her show, I thought he was lovely and I really liked him. I'd have loved it if he had narrated some of the book, it would definitely have added another dimension to the book. There were a few other minor characters in the book - Bonnie, Carlie's co-host, Erin, who works on the TV show, Renee, Amy's book agent, but they only made fleeting appearances.
Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed City Dog I just felt as if there was something stopping me from loving it completely. As I mentioned earlier, it was a strange feeling, not being able to connect fully with a book or its main characters. Alison Pace's writing is fantastic and she manages to capture the love between humans and animals perfectly. Even if I wasn't already aware Alison had a dog I'd have guesed it from her writing. Carlie was such a fantastic little character to have in the book and my love of dogs helped no end. I probably wouldn't recommend this to someone who isn't a fan of animals and in particular dogs as I'm sure a lot of people will find this quite an unbelievable story. For me though, I really enjoyed it and look forward to trying to get my hands on Alison's other novels.