Magazine article The Spectator

'A Dog's Life', by Michael Holroyd - Review

Magazine article The Spectator

'A Dog's Life', by Michael Holroyd - Review

Article excerpt

A Dog's Life Michael Holroyd

MacLehose Press, pp.237, £12.99, ISBN: 9781848665224

There were several times when reading A Dog's Life that I felt as if I'd fallen into a time warp. It starts with a quote on the cover from Hugh Massingberd: Holroyd is 'a brilliant writer blessed with perfect pitch'. Nothing wrong with that, except that Hugh, alas, is no longer in a position to review books, having died seven years ago.

The book itself, a novel closely based on Holroyd's own family, was written in the late 1950s but never published in the UK after his father took violent exception to the way he'd been portrayed. He also warned that publication could well kill Holroyd's elderly aunt. Under the circumstances, he decided it might be prudent to withdraw it.

At this distance, it's hard to see what all the fuss was about. The aunt, Eustace Farquhar, may be an autocratic lush with an increasingly wobbly hold on reality, but there's no real malice there. If anything, Holroyd is much tougher on himself -- he appears, lightly veiled, as Kenneth Farquhar, the possessor of a 'masturbatory white face' and a head full of music and literature. But then all the characters here are grotesques of one kind or another, all of them uncomfortably crammed together under the roof of the family house, the implausibly titled This'll Do.

In a postscript, Holroyd writes how the book was originally going to have an introduction written by the then highly regarded novelist William Gerhardie, in which he hailed the author as 'a master of inconsequence'. …

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