Anita Diamant, the same author who wrote The Red Tent (if you haven’t read – read.), has written this book, The Last Days of Dogtown… which, like The Red Tent (the biblical story of Dinah), is based off of a tiny little fragment of a story that she turns into a Full Length Novel – making whole characters out of what is only a minuscule mention in some historical text.
Basically Dogtown was this little rundown village in Cape Ann, Massachusetts way back when. It’s a ramshackle little place where all sorts of witches, whores, and drunks live. Basically, if you are a degenerate, you live there. Or, if not, you plan to one day get out and move into Gloucester, the nearby town where you can maybe make something of yourself.
The book follows the lives of over ten characters in a mere 261 pages – but ultimately it ends up being about one woman in particular, Judy Rhines, a very lonely woman who learns to make a life for herself despite setbacks that she has faced.
There is a lot of “taboo/forbidden” love in this novel (i.e. interracial, lesbian, premarital, etc.), there is murder, there is scandal, and there are plenty of secrets to be had. It takes a while, but you get yourself woven into the character’s lives and the scandals that surround Dogtown as it finally falls apart.
This was a pretty good book. I feel like it could have been made into a much longer novel or perhaps just have had fewer characters. Some of the lives I was thrown into learning about seemed like they were delivered too fast - I wasn’t able to get all emotionally connected and all. I also had moments where I was like, “did learning about this or that in a character’s past make me like the book anymore?” And the answer was no. So your mom got murdered? Eh, you aren’t even that big of a character in the book. Sorry.
Diamant does have this way of making me want to know the full history of what she is writing about. After The Red Tent I had to pick up the Bible and read Genesis just so I could see that tiny blurb about Dinah, and this book is no different. After turning the last page I wanted to do research Dogtown and see what it was all about.
On to reading!
Oh, and P.S. I’ve more or less given up on Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman.
Mr. Klosterman –
In case you ever randomly come across this, I just want you to know that I do not admire your fiction writing skills as much as I respect your essay writing skills. Keep to nonfiction old chum.