Heavenly conjunctions


Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones.
Greenwillow Books, 2001 (1975).

A ‘dogsbody’ is of course a common way of describing a drudge, a Johnny Factotum, the office boy who makes the tea, the hapless school student on work experience. And there is a drudge in this story: Kathleen, who fulfils the role of a Cinderella under the thumb of a surrogate stepmother.

But the title of this novel is also the starting point for the notion that a celestial being can inhabit the body of a dog, and that is the main trigger for this story. The most famous celestial body with a canine association is the so-called Dog Star, Sirius, so the question is, how does Sirius come to be incarnated in a puppy just about to be drowned at birth?

I love the way that Diana Wynne Jones novels work: the way you can identify with one or more of the main characters, the way that each story arc leads to a resolution of sorts, the way disparate ideas come together in poetic and perhaps meaningful names and images and incidents.

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