Between a Wolf and a Dog
April 24, 2016 — 23:13

Author: Dorothy Johnston  Category: Australian literature fiction writing  Comments: 8

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My reviews of Georgia Blain’s Between a Wolf and a Dog, and her young adult novel, Special, were published in the Fairfax newspapers this weekend. (In Australia, it’s a long weekend for Anzac Day.)

Readers of this blog will know that I don’t copy my reviews into my posts. You can read the reviews of Blain’s two books here.

Instead, I add a few thoughts that I didn’t have the space for, or go off on a small tangent of my own.

While Georgia Blain was writing  Between a Wolf and a Dog, in which one of the main characters, a woman in her seventies, has brain cancer, she discovered that she herself had a malignant brain tumour. She was mowing the lawn one day when she collapsed and was taken to hospital.

There’s a very good interview with Charlotte Woods in the Fairfax papers, detailing what Blain went through, and she also wrote a series of articles about it in The Saturday Paper.

You can imagine what you’d feel like if that happened to you. You’d scarcely be able to believe that irony, or fate, could be so cruel.

Blain went back to editing the novel, which isn’t autobiographical, and produced a very fine piece of work indeed.

It’s a co-incidence that, the same weekend my reviews were published, I started reading the manuscript for The Dalai Lama in My Letterbox, sub-titled One woman’s Big Breast Adventure, by Jennifer McDonald. The books are very different – McDonald’s is based around the blog she started when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s warm and witty, at time very funny, intimate and courageous.

Blain’s is fiction, and there are other important characters besides the cancer sufferer. The two books have one thing in common, though; neither is the least bit sentimental.

Jennifer McDonald, I’m proud to say, is the Principal at ‘For Pity Sake’, publishers of my latest novel, Through a Camel’s Eye.

One last comment on Between a Wolf and a Dog. The title comes from a French expression: ‘l’heure entre chien et loup’. This means ‘the hour between a dog and a wolf’, and refers to dusk, or twilight, when an animal, possibly threatening, observed at a distance, is no longer a dog, but not yet a wolf. It’s that unsettling time which, in English, we sometimes call ‘the witching hour’. Blain has inverted the French saying to make it refer, not to dusk, but dawn, the time when the novel begins, with one of the characters who has passed a sleepless night.

  • Very humbled that my manuscript ‘The Dalai Lama in My Letterbox’ is mentioned in such distinguished company. Thank you, Dorothy.

    April 25, 2016 — 1:10
  • No doubt at all, Jen, that you belong in that distinguished company!

    April 25, 2016 — 5:40
  • I didn’t realise till I read your Age rv that Blain was writing this book before her own diagnosis. What an absolute freakish thing. It must seem to her at times that this can’t really be happening.
    And quite a feat to be able to work on the ms under those conditions. Congratulations on Through A Camel’s Eye, and here’s to books 2 and 3.

    April 25, 2016 — 7:48
  • Yes, it is freakish. My sense is that she went back to the manuscript because it was what she had to do. But, as we know, chemotherapy makes you sick and exhausted, which makes Blain’s achievement even more remarkable.

    Thanks for your good wishes re my own book!

    April 26, 2016 — 0:44
  • Oh dear, I haven’t visited your blog for a while Dorothy – my blog visiting has taken a dive over the last few months so much get back on the rounds. I read about Georgia Blain’s diagnosis. Terrible. I’d heard of the adult novel, but not of Special. It sound like it has some resonances with Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never let me go. Very interesting subject matter to explore, and although I’m not a big speculative fiction reader, I do tend to be drawn to dystopian fiction. Hmm … I wonder what that says about me.

    It was lovely to meet you on the weekend. Hope you enjoyed your trip here and had a pleasant flight home.

    June 20, 2016 — 7:43
  • admin

    Thanks WG. It was lovely to meet you too!

    It’s interesting that you’re drawn to dystopian fiction. I’m not a big speculative fiction reader either, though I do love Ursula le Guin.

    June 22, 2016 — 6:42
    • I have never read Ursula Le Guin but I know I should give her a try. But, you know, you get to a certain age and you realise that there are some things you are just never going to do or read, don’t you.

      June 25, 2016 — 7:22
  • admin

    That’s very true, WG. You become saturated with fiction, just as you become saturated with other art forms, as you become older. There’s just only so much your brain can cope with! Reviewing keeps you thinking, and open-minded. In your case, definitely!

    June 26, 2016 — 3:43
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