There’s something about the perspective of dogs that fascinate many readers. Many stories with dog narrators are certainly heartwarming treats, testaments to the unconditional love and devotion dogs have towards their owners. Bernadette Griffin’s Canine Confessions is no exception. Daisy is a lovely and endearing narrator, a posh cocker spaniel who thinks that with her blood and her beauty, she should have been named after Queen Elizabeth or Helen of Troy rather than Blondie and Dagwood Bumstead’s far more common pet dog. She lives with Monique and her husband Harry and children Matthew, Mark and Kathleen, and while she is ostensibly Matthew and Mark’s dog, she bonds the most with Monique, who takes care of her.
Unlike some other books with dog narrator, such as Garth Stein’s Art of Racing in the Rain and W. Bruce Cameron’s A Dog’s Journey, Canine Confessions appears to be more about Monique and her family, and Daisy’s observations of their story, rather than about Daisy herself. Monique is a captivating character — a feminist in 1970s Montreal who doesn’t enjoy sex and fears her husband is cheating on her. Through Daisy’s eyes, we see Monique’s emotional journey, and like Daisy, we want her to find happiness. Monique’s son Mark is also a mysterious, complex figure — clearly troubled and with a drinking problem. There’s a lot going on with this family, a lot of emotions they keep hidden from each other, but that eventually come to light, and through Daisy’s eyes, we see a lot of it unfold as the human characters cannot.
As a narrator, Daisy is a delight. Her standard dignified, almost snooty tone contrasts with her sheer exuberance when she (temporarily) escapes Monique’s house. I love her desire for freedom, and her awareness that the captivity of her species is rather unjustly seen by society as normal. She yearns for her species’ past, partly for the freedom, but more for the dignity that freedom afforded. When she is spayed, the moment is heart-wrenching — we recall an earlier chapter where she longs to meet a male dog, and later, when listening to Monique and Harry’s forced intimacy, she reflects bitterly on her own missed opportunity. Yet she doesn’t take this dissatisfaction out on her owners — her affection for them is genuine, and Monique especially relies on her for comfort.
Canine Confessions is an interesting look at a family in 1970s Montreal, from the point of view of their dog. While the dog is the narrator, the focus is much more on the family, with the dog perhaps sounding almost human herself, and part of me wonders how much would be lost if Daisy were not narrating the tale. Still, it’s a lovely, breezy read, with characters to root for, and a lyricism in the language that reflects the author’s musical background.
Thank you to Laskin Publishing for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.