Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Book Review: Nop's Trials

Ever since I first watched a sheep dog trial, I have been fascinated by border collies. With just a few commands from his master, a well trained border collie is able to gather a small herd of sheep, march the herd through a gate, and drive them into a pen. It's a eerie mixture of predatory instinct and obedience training.

Nop's Trials, by Donald McCaig, is a story about a border collie named Nop. I am not giving away too much of the plot by telling you Nop becomes separated from his master, a Virginian farmer named Lewis Burkholder. The story follows Nop from one bad experience to another. Meanwhile, finding his dog becomes a kind of quest for Lewis Burkholder.

This sounds a little like Lassie Come Home, but it's not kids stuff. The book is unflinchingly gritty at times. It's also inventive. It's told in the third person, but McCaig often gives you Nop's perspective. There's even dialog between Nop and the other dogs he meets. Dog dialog may sound like a gimmick, but if despite your better judgment you have ever wondered what your dog is thinking, you will be enchanted.


Patty said...

Dave - you've inspired me - I tried to read Nop's Trials many years ago and the "grit" in this story was just too much for me. Maybe my more mature self will be able to give it another go.

Dave Delay said...

I hope you like it. Just don't read it out loud to Rocket. :-)

Pete said...

Sorry for the previous deletes. I had some problems writing this response.

If you liked that you may enjoy Timbuktu. It's the story of a homeless man from the viewpoint of his dog.

I know you like historical stories so if you haven't read John Muir's short story: Stickeen, you should give it a try.
Given how long we've known each other I've probably told you this a hundred times, but if you've yet to read it, now's a good time. It's very short too.

Dave Delay said...

Thanks, Pete. Both suggestions sound good. I'm a big fan of John Muir's writing, but I never heard of "Stickeen".