Archive | September, 2013

Five of the Best Literary Dogs in Fiction

11 Sep

Meg Rosoff has just written her list of the best literary dogs in fiction for The Telegraph — but it is in no way definitive so obviously I had to make my own. Here it is.

1. Friend — ‘FRIEND’S BEST MAN’ by Jonathan Carroll

Friend is from Carroll’s story ‘FRIEND’S BEST MAN’, winner of a World Fantasy Award. It’s about a man who saves his beloved dog from being run over by a train, but in doing so loses one of his legs. In hospital he meets a dying girl who can read his dog’s mind.

This apocalyptic tale of friendship found in ‘The Panic Hand‘, Jonathan Carroll’s superb collection of short stories.


2. Chiquitito-Brown — ‘A Dog So Small‘ by Philippa Pearce

This is one of those books that you read as a child and it stays with you for the rest of your life. Ben Blewitt really, really wants a dog. His grandfather promises him one for his birthday, and Ben “had picked and chosen the biggest and best from the dog books in the Public Library”, but when his birthday rolls around he finds out that it is to be a woollen cross-stitch of a dog instead.

The woolwork chihuahua in the picture becomes Chiquitito-Brown, “a dog so small you can only see it with your eyes shut.” Pop-eyed, pinky-fawn with pointy ears, this imaginary companion is bold, resolute and brave in the world of Ben’s imagination.

I think this is an amazing children’s story. Not just because of the extremely effecting relationship between Ben and Chiquitito, but because it’s so rare to have a cast full of flawed, human characters in Middle School fiction.

Someone’s scanned the whole book and you can read it here.

Special mention in the chihuahua category goes to Sebastian in ‘A Little Dog Like You‘.


3. Checkers — ‘Checkers‘ by John Marsden

This is some bleeeeak YA fiction by Australian author John Marsden. The title character is a loveable black-and-white dog that shares a special bond with its owner, a nameless teenage girl who narrates the story as a voluntary inpatient of a mental ward. Through the use of diary fiction and flash-back, we find out what happened to the girl — and what happened to Checkers.

Special mention in the surprise! dead-dog category goes to ‘The Gathering‘.

4. Snitter — ‘The Plague Dogs‘ by Richard Adams

For those of you not in the know, ‘The Plague Dogs’ is about two dogs, Rowf and Snitter, who escape an animal testing facility. They wander the English Lake District and with the help of a fox with a heavy accent, try to live like wild things. Oh, and they’re guilty of manslaughter and possibly carrying the bubonic plague.

Snitter had a human owner once, which colours his experiences. Both canines are victims of medical testing, but Snitter’s interpretation of the world is slightly more skewed than Rowf’s due to a lobotomy. The open wound from the terrier’s surgery has been covered with a dressing, leaving him with something resembling a jaunty cap.

Unlike ‘Watership Down‘, ‘Plague Dogs’ is neither marvellous nor charming. But Adams’ gift for storytelling means that this isn’t a totally depressing read (see: ‘Checkers’, above) and there are plenty of moments of beauty, insight and humour. And the ending is different to the cartoon version!


5. Sirius Black — ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban‘ by JK Rowling

Yeah, I’m mentioning Harry Potter again. Don’t you get it by now? “ALWAYS.”

Review: ‘Family Likeness’ by Caitlin Davies

7 Sep


Rating: ★★☆☆☆

I’ve never really understood the appeal of the genealogy story. With multi-generational texts like ‘Middlesex’ and ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’, I find myself wanting to skip to the now far more often than a good English Literature graduate should. I don’t know if it’s a fault of my immersion in the Instagram Generation – where we’re constantly trying to capture and hold the present like an overflowing bag, worried lest we let a single fleeting moment slip away without capturing it forever in the sepia tones of permanence – or whether I’m just not a fan of grandparent sex. Either way, this was not the book for me.

Family Likeness’ is Caitlin Davies’ fifth novel. It follows the story of Muriel Grey, the daughter of a white Englishwoman and an African American soldier stationed in England during the war. Muriel is raised in a children’s home during the 1950’s and much, if not all, of the story centres around her and her daughter’s later efforts to uncover the truth about her lineage. Continue reading

Literary Recipes: Lembas Bread from ‘Lord of the Rings’

2 Sep


Lembas, or “journey-bread”, is a special bread made by the elves, also called “waybread” in the common speech. Lembas is a closely guarded secret, and only on rare occasions is it given to non-elves. Galadriel gives a large store of lembas to the fellowship of the ring upon its departure from Lothlórien. Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee subsist on it through the majority of their journey from there into Mordor. Like other products of the elves, it is offensive to evil creatures; Gollum outright refuses to eat it, even when starved.

Melian, the queen of Doriath, originally held this recipe. Later it was passed to Galadriel and other elves. The recipe I use is adapted from Everything is Poetry.


  • 1/4 cup of sour cream
  • 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup of honey
  • 2 cups of wholemeal flour
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 110g of cold butter
  • optional: mallorn leaves or substitute


1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees (gas mark 6).


2.  Zest your lemons as best you can. I thought this was the hardest step (i.e. my knuckles thought this was the hardest step).


3.  Mix together the flour, lemon zest, and baking powder.

4.  Add the butter in chunks and rub it all together.

5.  In a separate bowl, mix together the sour cream, lemon juice, and honey.


6.  Dump the wet mixture into the floury one, and mix it up into a doughy ball. It should be nice and squishable but not too sticky ’cause you’re gonna need to roll it out.

7.  Put it in the fridge for at least an hour (or skip this step if you’re impatient, like me).


8.  Roll the mixture out about 1cm thick and cut it into squares however big/small you want. Hint: smaller ones are easier to wrap in leaves if you’re going to present them all elf-like!

9.  Bake for 15-17 minutes, until they’re nice and golden brown. Check them regularly though after like 10 minutes, because they go from nice to burnt pretty quick.

10.  Optional: consume while playing The Lord of the Rings drinking game.

According to Tolkien himself, “The cakes will keep sweet for many many days, if they are unbroken and left in their leaf wrappings”. I ate mine with salad: