Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

I had read many good reviews of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski and had been waiting for it from my local library for two months when Oprah picked it for her book club. I was glad I was able to get it at that time! If you get this novel, prepare to spend some time reading it. It was a good book, but took me almost two weeks to read. I'm a fast reader, but this 600 page novel is not a fast reading book.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is a tale of Hamlet set in the Wisconsin northwoods, somewhere near Ashland. Edgar is a mute boy who lives on a farm with his father Gar, and mother, Trudy. Together, the family continues on Edgar's grandfather's tradition of raising and training a unique breed of dog known as the Sawtelle dogs. Life is idyllic until Edgar's until Claude arrives back in town. Claude and Gar fight constantly and one day Gar mysteriously dies. Claude begins to insuinate himself into Trudy's affections and Edgar becomes crazed. Eventually after a desperate act, Edgar and three of his yearling dogs departs for a voyage through the Wisconsin northwoods toward Canada and freedom.

I found myself loving all of similarities to Hamlet until I neared the end and remembered how Hamlet ended. Also the book talks about The Jungle Book, which is one of my favorite books. I thought there were some similarities there. I thought this was a good book and I really would like to discuss it with someone. I hope one of my friends reads it soon. Why did I love it? I think the overall human nature story with themes of greed and jealousy was engaging, but being a dog lover I also loved the dogs and their almost human characteristics. I especially loved Almondine. The supernatural elements of the story and the on the run adventure were my favorite parts. I loved how Edgar had to fight for survival in the woods.

What didn't I like? The reason that Edgar had to go on the run was guessed by me early on. Also the ending. SPOILER ALERT. I know it's a tale of Hamlet set in the northwoods, but did the stage really have to be littered with corpses? Couldn't Edgar had survived? What do you think? I'm usually all about sad endings, but to have a 14-year old mute boy whom I'd grown to love over 600 pags bit it at the end, upset me. I did like the ambigious ending to the dogs. What will happen to them? It's fun to ponder.


  1. I totally agreed with your assessment of the book - every bit of it. I have been wanting to have someone to discuss it with since I finished it a week ago. I feel like I'm in mourning, and I've never felt that emotionally invested in a book before. I keep asking what was it all for if in the end everything was lost? Why has the author done such a brilliant job of getting us to love his characters to such a degree, and the story, and the history of the family, and the breeding of the Sawtelle dogs only to have it all go away? I'm having a hard time with that.

  2. I'm glad someone else feels the same way I do! I've really been wanting to discuss this book with someone - but no one I know has read it yet! I hope that the dogs at least have a happy ending somewhere . . . !!

  3. I'm wondering how this book will translate to the movie. I didn't guess, until well into the book, that Claude was the soldier in the prologue that was purchasing the instant poison from the herbalist in S. Korea. Since this was before the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Claude hatched his diabolic plot to murder his hated brother and bed his brother's wife long before he reenters their lives.

    Will the movie leave the prologue out? We would know Claude as the murderer just by his voice even if his face was not on the screen. I think this would destroy the element of surprise for people who see the movie, but haven't read the book.