As a big fan of Matt Haig, having enjoyed both his fiction and non-fiction writing, I was looking forward to reading The Last Family In England. Originally published in 2004, it was one that caught my eye recently, both due to its interesting concept, and because there is a dog on the cover (I’m always drawn to books with animals on the cover!)
As a dog lover, I was intrigued to see that this story is narrated by a dog. Prince is a Labrador owned by the Hunter family, and from the opening pages we get a sense that something shocking has happened, something which has resulted in an unwanted trip to the vets for this loyal family pet. From this point, Prince recounts his story, and the events that led him to being in his current predicament. The reader is introduced to a ‘Labrador Pact’ in which Labradors have a duty to protect their family unit. But as we get a glimpse into the lives of the Hunter family, we soon realise that this is a much more difficult job than it seems, despite Prince’s best efforts. I was intrigued by the concept of a dog having a duty of care towards its owners, so was interested to see how the story would develop. I still have fond memories of my own dog, and the way he would behave and show concern/affection when a family member was upset so I liked that this was something explored through this story – the way in which animals can sense human emotions, and have a better understanding of a human situation then you may think.
I finished this book really quickly, and found it to be an enjoyable read. The chapters are all relatively short so it was easy to get into and had a definite ‘just one more chapter’ feel. And of course the narration by a dog gave the book quite a light hearted feel, particularly the humorous conversations between other dogs which made for entertaining reading. That said it is worth noting that despite its quirkiness and its humour, it is also very moving, as we realise that life for Prince and the family he is desperate to save is not quite a walk in the park. The story deals with some difficult issues surrounding the family unit, including the potential breakdown of a relationship, teenage angst and mental heal issues. And of course this is a lot for Prince to deal with, as there are complex situations unfolding which are beyond his capabilities. And the story developed in ways I did not expect, and there were some harrowing moments which made for difficult reading, with events spiralling further out of control, building up to a dramatic conclusion.
I enjoyed The Last Family in England. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into reading this book with its canine narrator but it turned out to be a family drama in which darkness is interspersed with humour and hope. A book unlike any I have read before which deals with a complex array of human emotions, all through the eyes of the Labrador who strives to save them, no matter what the cost may be.
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