Friday 17 November 2017

Review: Fiction: Even the Dogs by Jon McGregor

Bloomsbury, £12.99, hbk, 208 pages
Available with free P&P on www.kennys.ie or by calling 091 709350

Even The Dogs, which won the IMPAC prize this week, is Jon McGregor's third novel. Like his first two, it is slim, controlled and authoritative, full of the kind of descriptions that can make a reader look at everyday things anew. On page one, an overflow pipe is given "a fat lip of melting ice", for example.

But McGregor has set himself a hard task, for Even the Dogs is written largely from the viewpoint of heroin-addicted friends and in the chopped argot of a Midlands city in Britain (McGregor himself lives in Nottingham) where life revolves around "getting sorted" in a dingy flat on a decaying council estate.

The story begins when the police arrive at the flat after neighbours complain of the smell, and in various fractured narratives (including one delivered in the first person plural), McGregor tells the story of Robert, the occupant, whom the police find dead on the floor.

It is not a happy story, of course. As Robert's body is bagged and driven across town for its post-mortem, McGregor performs a similar operation on Danny and Steve and Heather and Laura, taking each one in turn as if they were organs in Robert's body.

He examines how it is they came to be as they are, spending every minute of their days on the run from the "rattlings" of withdrawal as they struggle to scrape together enough to buy the quota of £10 bags of brown.

It is grotesque and disturbing, but McGregor brings these people -- the sort you glimpse in underpasses -- to the forefront and manages to make their bleak lives into something ethereal and haunting.

Toby Clements

Indo Review

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