[Book Talk] Dog's Eye View: How Human Can a Furry Narrator Be?

06:05 Cilla P 15 Comments

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(Disclaimer: as I've mainly read books from a dog's perspective, this post is going to focus mostly on those rather than animals in general.)

I used to think that talking animals belong in fantasy or children's books. This changed after I read The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein; I fell in love with the idea of reading books - contemporary, adult books about regular people - with dogs as narrators. Why? Maybe it's the dog lover in me who believes that puppies observe human behaviours all the time. Or it is a unique perspective to take on a story and on human nature, albeit one that is limited at times. Or it's just kind of charming. Whichever the reason, it's still a fun reading experience. 

It probably goes without saying that you need some degree of suspension of disbelief when you go into this kind of books. You have to let some anthropomorphism happen. The question then is, how much?

How human can the furry characters be? Animal Farm by George Orwell has its creatures stage a revolution and set up their own government, but it is meant as an allegory. The last time I accepted the idea of animals running a government was while watching Cats and Dogs, and even then that was because it's a movie for children.

books I have read with furry narrators


That said, I fully accept in fiction what I've seen in my own pets. I believe that animals understand your emotional states and have their own feelings. I believe some are intelligent; they can learn new skills and draw conclusions. Some can pull you out of burning buildings. I don't believe that they'd be able to help me pick out a dress, or fully understand the emotional reasons behind my fears or anxiety or even happiness. 

Of course, we're talking about books that aim to stay close to animal nature. If anthropomorphism is part of the premise (like in this book), then I won't worry about what I believe to be reality. 


What about you? Have you read books with non-human narrators? If yes, recommend one to me please! If not, would you? How much anthropomorphism is okay in a contemporary book?

15 comments:

  1. Oh wow, interesting post, Cilla!
    I don't think I've ever thought about it before - but I think it's fine if the narrator is anthropomorphic, and if its part of the premise. Otherwise, it's too unreal for a contemporary novel, if that makes sense? :)

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    1. Yeah, that makes sense! I think the tricky part when writing for adults through this particular point of view is giving the animal some personality without slipping too far into Disneyfied animals. Like, Dug from Up is totally adorable but I wouldn't be able to take him seriously as a narrator, haha.
      Thanks for stopping by, Geraldine! <3

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  2. I can only think of one book that I've read that included the dog's POV - and it was one of many POV's so I thought it was a little overboard that we were seeing things from the dog's perspective. Now you make me want to read a book from a dogs' POV, though. It sounds so cute and fun! I love my pups, so ...


    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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    1. You should give it a shot! I absolutely recommend The Art of Racing in the Rain. It's definitely a good one for dog lovers, though I remember skipping most of the car racing bits.. It's still a great book though! :)

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  3. A while back I read a book called The Last Family in England by Matt Haig, which had a dog (a golden labrador, I believe) as the narrator, which sounds ridiculous but it was actually pretty awesome. I'm all for animal narrators: it makes for a completely different type of story and that's cool with me.

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    1. Oooh it doesn't sound ridiculous at all! There's a part of me that's sometimes curious about what my dog is thinking about my family, so I'll have to add that to my list of books to check out :)

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  4. Interesting! I haven't read a lot of books with dog/animal narrators - the only one I can think of is A Dog's Life by Ann M. Martin - so I haven't really considered it. It's definitely unique, but I'm not sure how much I'd actually enjoy it. It might be nice once in a while, but I think some of the limitations would just frustrate me. I'd have to actually try one of those books first, though.

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    1. I know what you mean! If you like following a character's inner reflections, that would be difficult to do when the narrator is basically an outsider to the situation, as an animal would be. If you can, I recommend having a look at The Art of Racing in the Rain!

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  5. I haven't read any yet from a dog's perspective, but I have read several from a cat's perspective. One that comes to mind is Midnight Louie by Carole Nelson Douglas. I think it's fine as long as the animal retains some of his nature.

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    1. Ooh I haven't read any from a cat's perspective! I shall keep an eye out for Midnight Louie then :) Thanks, Jennifer!

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  6. I love this. I especially loved The Art of Racing. It's so good! I believe the same things you believe in as well. I think it's not that difficult to understand them, especially if they're our dogs and we're their owners.

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    1. *highfives* It's one of the books I immediately recommend to doglovers. :D I agree! Dogs don't communicate like humans do, but we can often work out what they want anyway (though sometimes we don't!). I think authors should retain that when looking through their eyes. Thanks for stopping by, Jillian!

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  7. It's been a long time since I've read a book from an animal's POV. It was probably The Incredible Journey. At least I'm fairly certain that was told from the animals' perspectives. I feel like it was one of the books that really got me into reading, but I'm not sure animal POVs would really be for me anymore. It's definitely an interesting and fun thing to see things from a non-human POV, but I like the emotion and insight and growth and thoughts of human characters too much!

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  8. Love these books
    -thebookreturn.com

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  9. I remember I liked 'Diary of a Killer Cat' (by Anne Fine) when I was 10 or 11 - although don't think I've ever met an animal narrator in an adult book . I always think of dogs and cats as having personalities though, so I don't think it'd bother me too much!

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Thanks for reading! It makes my day to hear your thoughts and I will respond asap. :)