Monday, February 9, 2009

Book Review: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

The central character, Edgar Sawtelle, is born mute but is able to hear. He and his parents breed and train dogs in rural Wisconsin. Their dogs are a special breed that was the vision of Edgar's grandfather and were bred more for their intellect and character than how they look. Their farm life is suddenly thrown off its peaceful tract with the return of Claude, Edgar's uncle. Shortly afterward Edgar's father dies suddenly, and Claude makes himself at home with Edgar's mother. Grieving and a bit confused, Edgar eventually runs away into the wild where he comes into his own.

If you're familiar with Shakespeare, you can see the parallels to Hamlet. Right down to even some of the characters' names. I had a bit of trouble getting into the story at first. And then I read the book jacket and the similarity to Hamlet was very clear to me. After that I was able to enjoy the book so much more because I knew the motives of the characters, which Wroblewski doesn't hand directly to you.

All of the major plot points are there. The death of a father. The uncle taking over the "kingdom" and claiming his brother's wife. The father's ghost indicating murder by his brother. The play to prove the uncle's guilt. The son running away after an accidental death. And more.

Wroblewski is not the first to put a different spin on a classic Shakespeare story. Even Shakespeare's own plays are not all original. Though at times tedious, Wroblewski's take is highly detailed so it doesn't take a lot of stretch of the mind to imagine the setting. The book is also highly imaginative as he periodically gives you the story from one of the dog's perspective.

Next month - East of Eden by John Steinbeck

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