I’d been wanting to read the award-winning Dog Boy ever since it was published early last year, and I was lucky enough to pick it up half-price at my trusty second-hand bookstore some months later. Only recently did I fish it from the mounting pile of books to read and it was well worth the wait.
The book begins with four-year-old Romochka waking up to an abandoned apartment he shares with his mother and uncle in Moscow. For the next few days he stays in his dilapidated building, following his mother’s orders to “Don’t go near people. Don’t talk to strangers”, until that is no longer an option and he is forced to fend for himself in the outside world.
Romochka soon stumbles across a street dog, and follows her to her lair, christening her Mamochka. There he becomes part of the dog family, consisting initially of Mamochka, Black Dog, Golden Bitch and a litter of puppies who Romochka names White Sister, Black Sister, Grey Brother and Brown Brother. Another litter, the death of Brown Brother and, unbelievably enough, a new “dog boy”, a baby Romochka calls Puppy, fill out the 290 page novel.
Romochka forms a special kinship with White Sister as they spend two blistering winters roaming the streets for food, enduring the abduction and torture by privileged (at least in comparison to Romochka or the “bomzhi” [street kids]) “house boys”, until he and Puppy are captured and taken under the wing of doctor Dmitry and his partner Natalya.
Hornung’s gruesomely described accounts of Romochka’s life with the pack, which made me cringe in anticipation whilst devouring it on public transport, really give the reader a sense of the connection between not just Romochka and his dogs, but man and dog in general.
This is a fantastic book, and I would recommend it to anyone, but especially animal and dog lovers. As my friend Tess, a fellow animal and booklover said: “This is definitely my kind of book… but I’ll have to wait til uni holidays to read it!” In exchange for True Blood DVDs and Dog Boy, she has lent me A Clockwork Orange and George Orwell’s Animal Farm, so stay tuned for upcoming reviews on both of those and their big screen adaptations.