Monday, 8 March 2010

Timoleon Vieta Come Home by Dan Rhodes

Dan Rhodes’ métier, I suspect, is really as a short story writer. In this book very little of the action takes place in the present, which acts mainly as a framework for a series of flashbacks  of the main character’s life and, in Part II, a series of vignettes about the people that the dog meets on its journey. The protagonist Cockroft is an unappealing and weak man, the kind of person that an inspector from the Battersea Dogs’ Home would never have considered as a suitable dog adopter. Of course, Timoleon Vieta, a mongrel and stray with beautiful eyes, adopts the old man himself, so on the whole we have to consider that his judgement may be flawed. Admittedly his reaction to the Bosnian - another stray who turns up at the old man’s cottage in Italy - seems quite sound, but Cockroft does not have the sense to listen to wiser counsel.

Pity - it could have saved us all a lot of grief. ‘Savagely funny,’ says The Times on the book’s (attractive) cover. I should have been warned. It didn’t make me laugh. I can see that there is wit, and the writing is well done; the structure, albeit slightly sprawling, works too. But it is too savage for me. Tragedy, even at its most bathetic, must have some kind of point to it, if it is to be worth reading, but I failed to see why I was being continually assaulted by stories of misery here. Not for me, this one. Moral: beware books with attractive covers. Or dogs.


  1. Interesting review - thanks for sharing. It is a shame that you didn't enjoy this as much all that - I agree that it is very hard to cope with tragedy that has no point...

    Thanks for sharing


  2. So right about the sometimes misleading covers and comments like the "savagely funny" one!
    I remember a book that was, according to one such comment taken from a newspaper review, supposed to be "scary and spooky". I could not find anyhting like that in the book; to me, the story of two sisters who are so trapped in their own lives that they never leave the house their mother and father left them in, even when they could have, was overall just very, very sad.
    And an example of totally misleading cover is an edition of a Gábor von Vaszáry novel - the author lived from 1897 to 1985, and a lot of his stories were set in the decades from the 1930s to the 60s, but a later edition showed not the charming drawings that I remembered, instead, a photograph of a snogging couple that made you think more of soft porn than of a self-ironic comedy.

  3. Hannah, I'm happy to wallow in tragedy if I can see good reason. Other people who reviewed it on LibraryThing seemed to like it much better.

    Librarian, I hate those updated covers which seem to have nothing to do with the plot!