"Dog-lovers might think it's a bit cruel. Stalin probably didn't like it."
The Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov
Big thanks to Hertfordshire-based writer Edward Picot for this punchy and amusing review. He asked us to donate his fee to the British Red Cross Haiti appeal.
Set the scene for us: What made you pick up the book? Where and when did you read it? How long did it take to read?
I'm a big fan of Bulgakov's most famous book The Master and Margarita, and I was basically looking for anything else by him. I picked this up in a local bookshop and read it in about two days (it's very short).
How did this book make you feel?
Completely absorbed by the story!
What themes did it explore?
It's about a stray dog who is given a human pituitary gland as an experiment by a surgeon/professor. He then transforms into a monstrous semi-human and completely ruins the Professor's life.
The novel is set in the time of the Russian Revolution, and the dog seems on the point of becoming a leading light in the local Communist party, until the Professor reverses the surgery and he goes back to being a dog again. You can read it as a satire on the Revolution or just a story about the absurdity and selfishness of human behaviour.
What did you like about the plot/characterisation/writing style?
It's written from various points of view: firstly through the dog's eyes, then through the eyes of the Professor's assistant Bormenthal, and finally in the third person. As Sharik the dog becomes more manlike and takes over the Professor's household, the train of events becomes more and more anarchic and out of control. The writing is very punchy and very funny.
Who'd love/hate this book?
Anyone who likes their stories a bit magic-realist and alternative, or who is interested in Russian literature or the Revolution, will love this book. Dog-lovers might think it's a bit cruel. Stalin probably didn't like it.
Care to share a specific line or paragraph you liked?
The opening of the book is in the dog's voice: 'Ooow-ow-ooow-owow! Oh, look at me, I'm dying.'
Found a funny/stupid Amazon one-star review?
"pepole think this review is worthles. go ahead! say it! i dont care! im just trying to make a point here! blam this piece of crap!!!! the only reson im giving this a 1 is beacuase the caracters where pretty good. but thats it!"