I have never been a dog-book person. Ever since my fifth grade teacher read us a chapter each day aloud from Where the Red Fern Grows and emotionally ground up all of our souls into teeny tiny pieces as we collectively shed our 10-year-old innocence out via our tear ducts (THANKS MRS MORLEY THAT WAS SUPER FUN TIMES YAY READING), I have never felt compelled to read a dog book. Nothing good happens in dog books, is my thought. And don’t you come into my comments thread and tell me about no pooch story that won’t shred me to bits, because I ain’t buying it.
This is why it was weird that one day the book Bob, Son of Battle by Alfred Ollivant showed up on my holds shelf at the library. I have no recollection of putting it on hold (MRS MORLEY DID YOU HACK ME) but I guess I might have. If people recommend a book to me I often put it on hold then forget about it, so that’s probably what happened. Turns out Bob, S.O.B. is a classic kids’ book, published back in 1898 as Owd Bob and originally published in Cumbrian dialect. This version is in reg-lar English. I thought: what the heck, I shall lift the moratorium on dog books for a minute and at least read a few chapters to see what is up.
Set in the English countryside, it’s all about sheep farmers who are obsessed with their sheepdogs. James Moore is a genteel farmer and his dog, Bob, is the David Beckham of sheepdogs, and by that I do not mean to imply canine sexiness levels. Bob is just undefeated master of the coveted sheepdog tourney cup. All the farmers in the town get together at the pub each night and argue about who can ever have a dog like Bob? No one, and I will fight you if you say otherwise. A smidge severe, right? This is only the beginning.
Enter Adam, a rough, scrabbly, a-hole of a guy who beats his kid and hates his fellow man. He has an equally rough sheepdog who just may be able to beat Bob at the tourney. Everyone hates Adam and his damn dog. Much of this is very upstairs/downstairs. Adam is clearly riff raff and Bob’s owner John is Lady Effing Mary Crawley.
That is the set up, but you guys. This book was so rough I could not put it down just for sheer nutosity. The sheepdog farmers were so gangster it was shocking. First of all, SO MUCH FIGHTING. The farmers be getting heated about their dogs and going full fisticuffs at all times. People are getting beat almost to death on several occasions. Then there is Adam, the one with the most rage issues, beating his son throughout. And then! Halfway through, there is a full on mystery to solve regarding someone in town who is a DOG SERIAL KILLER. Like, first it is a sports book and then it is a gangster book and then it becomes a Silence of the Lambs/Hounds book. I kid you not, as I was reading it I was saying “WUT” out loud throughout.
I shall not tell you the end but it was probably one of the most jaw-dropping I have read in a verra verra long time. IF ANYONE OUT THERE HAS READ THIS BOOK YOU MUST TALK TO ME ABOUT IT.
Apparently, according to the internets there is a 90s movie made from this starring the sheepdog farmer from Babe (that guy really cornered the market on sheepdog farmer roles in Hollywood, but he will always be Harve from Little House/Zefram from Star Trek to me), which I cannot imagine. Did Tarantino direct it?
I mentioned this book is for like, 5th graders, right? The next time someone tells me they think kids’ and teen publishing has gotten too violent in modern times, aka The Hunger Games Complaint, I am handing them Bob.