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The Art of Racing in the Rain - Garth Stein

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Genre: Fiction / Author: Garth Stein / Edition: Lrg / Paperback / 368 Pages / Book is published 2008-05 by Harperluxe

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      08.11.2012 21:08
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      Racing, dogs, Ferrari - perfection, for me!

      The Art of Racing in the Rain is a 2008 novel by American author Garth Stein.

      PLOT
      The book follows the life of amateur racing driver Denny Swift, and his wife and young daughter. It is told from the point of view of Denny's dog, Enzo, who has been named after Enzo Ferrari, the founder of the car company.

      Through Enzo's narration, we follow a period of several years of Denny's life - from getting married, to having a child, and to the tragedies that follow. Along the way we also read about his racing career and his successes and failures within that.

      GOOD POINTS
      It is very easy to care about the main characters in this book - if Enzo the dog loves them, then so must we. I was completely gripped from the first page. If I had any concerns that a book being told from the point of view of a dog would be childish, they were unfounded.

      As a dog owner it did make me hug my dog a little tighter than normal, and you will wonder what is going on in their minds when they look at you!

      I loved the sections of the book that talked about Denny's racing career, and when Enzo spoke about his favourite races and racing drivers. As an F1 fan, a Ferrari fan, a dog lover, and fan of motor racing in general, I really felt like this novel could have been written especially for me.

      I generally do not get emotional when reading books unless they are about dogs, and I have to confess that when I finished this book, I was an absolute wreck. It really tugged on my heartstrings, and I could barely read the last 2 pages because of the tears in my eyes.

      BAD POINTS
      I am really reluctant to mention any bad points in this novel, as I adored it so much and feel guilty offering any criticisms whatsoever! Therefore anything I am about to write is only a tiny, tiny quibble so really you should just ignore me.

      The main drama of the book comes from a child custody battle - to me this kind of scenario is something that we have seen umpteen times in other films and books. At times I did think 'oh hurry up and get this resolved, please'. However, because the book is told from a dog's point of view, it did refresh the subject matter - and ultimately, this storyline in the book was never dull because you really care about the characters.

      WOULD I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK?
      I would, and have recommended this book to lots of people. I don't think you need to be a dog lover to enjoy this, but it will just add to your enjoyment if you are. You don't necessarily need to know anything about motor racing either as it's not a major part of the book, but I did find that my enjoyment of the story, particularly the last few chapters, was heightened
      because of the fact that I am an F1 fan.

      OVERALL
      This is a beautiful book that really affected me emotionally. Some might find it overly sentimental - it IS sentimental, but I am normally extremely cynical about such things and even I didn't find it saccharine. This book had me enraptured from start to finish; I read it over the space of a few hours and it remained in my thoughts for a couple of days afterwards.

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        02.12.2011 18:43
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        I'd rather have the dog in the night.

        I picked this book up in the library a few days ago as a last minute thing, having seen it in a review and thought I might like it. I haven't heard of the author, Garth Stein, but he's written other books and I thought it worth a try.

        Synopsis.

        Enzo is more than a loved family pet, it seems like he is a most unusual dog that can think and would talk if only he didn't have such a large and ungainly tongue in his mouth. He'd also be more human if only he had those things that make humans so well...human. He's talking about opposable thumbs of course, those thumbs that sets man apart from the apes.

        Enzo has a lot to say about that and many other subjects, but time is running out for the doughty dog. It's the eve of his last day on Earth and he's longing to be set free from pain and humiliation. Besides, he's seen a TV programme about re-incarnation and being a good dog he knows he will be human in his next incarnation.

        However, he has to remember his family before he goes and that includes his owner, Denny, Denny's wife Eve who unfortunately died before her time was up and the adorable Zoë their daughter who got caught up in a custody battle between Denny and Eve's parents. Once he has told his story he can go to his well-earned rest.

        My Thoughts.

        Normally I'd give a bit more background information here and set up the scene for my own insights into characterization and storyline. I try to avoid spoilers whenever possible and I've only given what the flyleaf has said. So what did I think of Enzo and his uncanny ability to talk to us, the readers?

        It didn't have me in floods of tears otherwise I couldn't have written what I just have without a few stray tears falling on my keyboard. I've also appeared to have picked up some of Enzo's ability to make a joke of serious issues since I don't normally sound quite so flippant. Maybe it's because the tone of the book is reasonably light and avoids the classic 'doggy-type Lassie' story, which would have put me straight off reading it. (Nothing wrong with Lassie but not at my age).

        Enzo starts his story with his first meeting his master and how he knows he is more than a normal dog. He does skip over any possible explanations so the reader has to take him at his word. Denny is a nice chap who loves racing and spends all his spare time trying to get into the racing scene. When it's just the two chums they watch a lot of racing on the TV and that's how the title comes about. Denny explaining to his dog how to control a speeding car in the rain.

        Of course Denny meets and marries Eve and little Zoë turns up a short while later. They have some good years together even though Denny has to forgo some of his dreams of becoming a racing driver.

        Now this was the point when I started getting just a tiny bit bored. I appreciated the fact that telling a semi-tragic story from a dog's point of view isn't easy for the writer, but the racing driver's dog loses some of his appeal when he's lectured us on all aspects of racing, including how to drive in the rain. I also take some of it as a metaphor for the ups and downs in Denny's life and how it runs alongside a story of death and child custody battles. It's just that the racing driver theme goes on and on without really making any point except one, and I can't tell you that bit as it would be a spoiler.

        Apart from that Garth Stein has written quite an engaging story about how a young man grows up quickly after his wife tragically dies and has to learn to cope on his own. Naturally the parents have some say in the bringing up of the daughter. That Denny was definitely immature comes across in the court hearings and the parents really do have the child's welfare at heart. If a thinking dog can help his master to learn how to care for his child then the book has a purpose beyond a ploy to get people (especially dog lovers) to buy the book.

        I wouldn't want the reader to think I am heartless either. I did enjoy the concept of the story and there are some very touching moments in the book. Stein cleverly tells the story through a dog's eye view so we can put some of our feelings to one side while reading the book. Personally I would have preferred a story similar to 'Marley and me' that had a normal dog with owners who had to learn to look after the dog before they could become parents. Does this start to sound familiar?

        I do hope I'm not being too picky as I'm sure this is a delightful story for dog-lovers. In the story Enzo is supposed to be the one that saves the family though I can't see he does anything apart from being a shoulder to cry on. I really would have liked a bit more doggy capers and less talk about driving, even though it has its moments.

        The narrative flows reasonably well and the doggy insights are cleverly written. There's a nice amount of humour among the angst so the trade-off is up to the reader to decide whether the author is very clever or has stumbled on a decent concept and worked it into his book. Either way I can't say it is worth more than three stars. I expect to have howls of outrage but I much preferred Marley & Me, a classy book by a different author.

        If you decide to give this a go then it's easy enough to find a cheap copy. Amazon is selling the paperback at £4.32 new. There are other offers online and it's also available used from 1p plus postage.

        Thanks for reading and the cat will write my next review.


        ©LisaFuller2011.

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          16.06.2011 16:53
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          A book written from a dog's perspective

          It seems like well over a year since I last read this, and m extensive "need to review" list is getting longer and longer and longer. So this review could be a lot more concise if I had reviewed it the day after I read it.

          I totally believed that this story was real and it came as a surprise to find out that it is a work of fiction. The author has made this book really well, and it is captivating, and at the end of it I think you truly could think that it was real, and that it actually happened.

          Garth Stein is definitely an author I'm going to look out for in the future, and all his books will appear on my wish list shortly after this review, because if he made me think a book was real, means he is a superb writer and hopefully it follows through to his other books. And maybe he'll end up as one of my favourite authors...... But we'll have to wait and see.

          Since it has been over a year I have read this, I don't think I can sell it well enough with the description I was going to give you (yes I've tried 5 times now and I can't describe it well enough) So, after reading fantasticfiction.co.uk's description, I think it's only right to put it on here, as it would be pretty similar to what I would have put, but it is a lot better:

          "Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.

          Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn't simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life's ordeals.

          On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through: the sacrifices Denny has made to succeed professionally; the unexpected loss of Eve, Denny's wife; the three-year battle over their daughter, Zoë, whose maternal grandparents pulled every string to gain custody. In the end, despite what he sees as his own limitations, Enzo comes through heroically to preserve the Swift family, holding in his heart the dream that Denny will become a racing champion with Zoë at his side. Having learned what it takes to be a compassionate and successful person, the wise canine can barely wait until his next lifetime, when he is sure he will return as a man.

          A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life . . . as only a dog could tell it."

          Now don't be put off with the whole fact that it is linked with motor racing. I am the only person in my entire family, who hates and detests motor racing and the F1 and anything else. Well I hate sport full stop! I'm the missing link out of our family, but I like to be different. And even though this book has quite a big link with racing, I totally fell in love with the story, and I think I may just read it again sometime in the future as the story seems real and it captured me right from the start, just like it will with you when you start reading it.

          There is quite a few heart-felt scenes and YES I am turning into the biggest softy ever, this is the third book that has made me cry (1st being "The Host - Stephenie Meyer", 2nd being "Bridge to Terabithia - Katherine Paterson"). And usually I don't get upset about these sorts of scenes, but for some reason I've started getting emotional over things, maybe it's because I'm getting older.... Or maybe it's because the author's writing style has gripped me that much and then ends up breaking my heart. When I get around to reading it again, if I cry again, we'll all know that it's the author's amazing writing style.

          I really like the cover of the book that I've got as it has a golden retriever on the front who looks adorable, however some of the other covers have different dogs on them and I don't like the other dogs, so I'm really happy that the person who sent me this book gave me this cover, but personally I think I would've waited and waited to read it, maybe I'd still be trying to read it, if it had a different dog on the front, as the other covers doesn't appeal t me, and I'd probably not get round to reading it. And I know "don't judge a book by its cover", but everyone does, otherwise you'd end up buying ever book you see when you walk into a bookshop.

          I found this book realistic and extremely interesting. I have a dog (called "Harvey") he's a border-collie, and he is occasionally really intelligent, but doesn't most dog owners say that about their own dogs? Anyway I imagined Enzo being Harvey, and I could totally see Harvey doing the exact same things if our family went into so much turmoil. Maybe that's the reason why I'm so attached to this story, and why it gripped me straight away. And although this brilliant book made me cry, the ending is not at all sad, it is quite interesting how it has been put, and a really nice ending, one that I really liked and found memorable. It is definitely a book that I'm planning to read again in the future sometime, and I really do think I will love it just as much as I did a whole year ago.

          I officially gave this book a 4.5 stars, but since it don't let me, I'll have t give it a five, even though I very much feel that this book deserves a drop of half a star, but no more, since some bits can be considered as slow going to a certain extent but it jumps back in not long after. Those bits are when Enzo talks about motor racing, and I kind of switched off. But I'm pretty sure that the people who do like the F1 and other motor sports will totally enjoy these bits!

          So who would enjoy this book? Well I think it goes without saying that people who like motor racing would really like this book, which is really weird as it makes this book stand out as it isn't a common theme found in these books (NOTE: you DO NOT have to like motor racing to like this book), fans of "Marley & Me" would definitely like this (I haven't read Marley and Me so I can't comment), fans of "Dewey: The library cat who Touched The World" as it is similar to an extent, anyone who likes books taken from a pet's perspective you'll really enjoy this! Also people who like Family Tragedies and books about Family love, as those are strong issues found in this book.

          A lot of author's have recommended this book from Jodi Picoult (Best known for "My Sister's Keeper") to Sara Gruen (Best Known for "Water for Elephants"). I am also someone who would totally recommend this book. And it should definitely end up on your wish lists at some point.

          Thank you all for reading and I really hope I have interested at least a few of you into reading this book, as I totally believe it is one you will like!

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            26.06.2009 18:50
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            A very good read written from a "different" perspective.

            Im going to attempt a book review, I think they are difficult because, I don't want to spoil the story by telling you every-thing, but, I want to tell you enough to get your attention.

            Im a real "bookworm" and have been since I was tiny, certain books like this one I actually slow down reading it when I get near the end because I don't want it to finish. Once you finish a book, its like closing a little world you have been in whilst reading it.

            This particular book is unusual in that its written totally from the dog-Enzos point of view- its made me look at my dog in a whole new light I have been very suspicious for years that she can read my mind anyway.

            Numerous points are made-
            Enzos views and opinions on humans, what we do and why we do it
            Denny (the owner) and his family and all they suffer in life
            An insight into racing cars (hence the title) as Dennys a racing driver
            Parents and parents-in-law and their "power" within the family.

            The story takes you through Enzos life with Denny as a single man, then a married man and he has to share Dennys attention.
            Once his daughter arrives theres a 4 way relationship going on.
            I think this book would appeal to people who dont have dogs as its such a great story with lots of sub- plots as much as it appeals to dog owners.

            Be prepared to laugh, have your heart melted, get angry, get frustrated and of course have a good cry!

            I admit I did find it hard to put the book down, until the end as I said before.

            The Art Of Racing in the Rain- Garth Stein
            Available in paperback ,320 pages from Harper collins

            I actually bought it as book of the month from Sainsburys £3.99.
            As a rule I buy books from bookshops, but when they are half price in supermarkets I have to ignore the guilt and buy it.

            Go on treat yourself, I dont think you will be disappointed.

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            26.10.2008 10:13
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            A good reflection on life

            This is simply the most amazing book and is within my top ten of 2008 so far. I'm very grateful that I've had the opportunity to read this through Amazon Vine and I don't think I've gushed about a Vine product in this manner before! It's absolutely amazing and when I say get the tissues ready I'm not even talking about a specific event, I just found it all so heart-warming and a fantastic reflection on life itself that every now and then I had big fat tears rolling down my cheeks at Enzo's observations.

            There's not much product information available on Amazon and the question from the inside jacket is enough to get you thinking, "Have you ever looked at a dog and wondered whether there might be more to him than meets the eye?" well in the case of Enzo there definitely is. Through Enzo we explore morality, philosophy, sociology, psychology and what it is to be human. You don't forget at all that you are reading the book from the perspective of Enzo and Garth Stein has written this into it so well - particularly all the bits about monkeys, they did have me laughing.

            Enzo is adorable - that's coming from a cat person rather than a dog person as well! It shows how much we are a nation of animal lovers and I could hear how I talk to my cat in the way that other characters talked to Enzo. I now wonder what's going through her mind when I'm chatting away to her!! The plot takes you through some difficult times for Denny - a semi-professional racing car driver - and his family (to which I include Enzo!). Enzo's thoughts and opinions take what is somewhere between an outsider's perspective, mixed with a child-like attitude in order to formulate a very sensible solution.

            It's a highly readable novel. I fully intended this morning reading a few chapters before getting on a doing some other work, however I couldn't put it down. I just wanted to read 'one more page', then 'a few more chapters' and before I knew it I was over half way through. It seemed pointless then putting it down ;-) Well worth the read, get it through any means you can.

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