I’ll be honest. I’m more of a cat person than a dog person. But either way, I am a pet person, and I have lost a pet to an ‘octopus.’ From the magical realism concept, and the opening line, I was pretty sure that this would be a book for me.
‘It’s Thursday the first time I see it. I know that it’s Thursday because Thursday nights are the nights my dog, Lily, and I set aside to talk about boys we think are cute.’
The unnamed narrator of Lily and the Octopus is horrified to see that his beloved dog Lily has a tumour, or as he calls it, an octopus on her head. As the life of his best friend is threatened, he begins to unravel, veering between pretending that nothing’s wrong, and collapsing. And in this book, Lily and he have full conversations, play Monopoly, make plans, with only the very occasional suggestion that it may all be in his head.
Anyone who has lost a pet knows that it can feel like a family member has died, and the stages of grief the narrator goes through are perfectly familiar. The character of Lily is adorable, filled with simple canine wisdom, and small misunderstandings that a dog might make. Though apparently gifted with the power of human communication, she is still definitely dog-like. When overexcited, she half barks in a way that any dog lover will be familiar with: ‘WHAT! IS! THIS! COSY! BOX! IT! WOULD! MAKE! A! GREAT! BED! FOR! ME!’
Whilst I got a little confused by a octopus-hunting sequence, this is an incredibly moving, masterfully written and yet very funny novel, which I defy anyone to read without crying at least twice.
Lily and the Octopus is out now, published by Simon & Schuster.