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.