The Lost Dog
Allen & Unwin, $35 hb, 354 pp
Michelle de Kretser’s third novel opens with a man and a dog in the Australian bush, an image whose hooks are sunk deep in our national psyche. Recall the Edenic first chapter of The Tree of Man (1955), with its portrait of Stan Parker settling on a patch of virgin wilderness with only his dog for company. In the Australian Garden, Eve is a subsidiary companion.
But the hound who goes missing at the start of this novel is no tuckerbox archetype. He is a city animal, not bush-wise, restrained from the dangers of the Victorian countryside by a length of rope tied to his collar. His master, Tom Loxley, who, in a moment of inattention, allows the leash to slip from his grasp, is also an urban interloper. He has borrowed a rustic shack from an artist friend in order to finish an academic monograph on ‘Henry James and the Uncanny’. Not only is Tom a Melbournian and an academic, but he is also the swarthy offspring of an Englishman and an Indo-Portuguese woman. His was a South Asian childhood of verdant greenery, dense with leaves and ‘measured in monsoons’. He is, in other words, alienated in triplicate.