Summary and book reviews of The Dogs of Littlefield by Suzanne Berne

The Dogs of Littlefield

by Suzanne Berne

The Dogs of Littlefield by Suzanne Berne X
The Dogs of Littlefield by Suzanne Berne
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2016, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2017, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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About this Book

Book Summary

A comedy of manners that explores the unease behind the manicured lawns of suburban America from the Orange Prize–winning author of A Crime in the Neighborhood.

Littlefield, Massachusetts, named one of the Ten Best Places to Live in America, full of psychologists and college professors, is proud of its fine schools, its girls' soccer teams, its leafy streets, and charming village center.

Yet no sooner has sociologist Dr. Clarice Watkins arrived to study the elements of "good quality of life" than someone begins poisoning the town's dogs. Are the poisonings in protest to an off-leash proposal for Baldwin Park - the subject of much town debate - or the sign of a far deeper disorder? Certainly these types of things don't happen in Littlefield.

With an element of suspense, satirical social commentary, and in-depth character portraits, Suzanne Berne's nuanced novel reveals the discontent concealed behind the manicured lawns and picket fences of darkest suburbia.

1.

No one was very surprised when the signs began appearing in Baldwin Park. For years people had been letting their dogs run free in the meadow to the west of the elementary school without attracting much notice; but once an authorized off-leash "dog park" was proposed and a petition presented to the Littlefield Board of Aldermen, fierce arguments erupted over whose rights to the park should be upheld, and the town broke into factions: those who loved dogs and those who did not, at least not in the park.

At first the signs were polite reminders to dog owners to curb and pick up after their dogs. PLEASE RESPECT THE PARK, they read. Or THE PARK IS FOR ALL OF US. But as the off-leash proposal gained support among the aldermen, several of whom owned dogs themselves, the signs became more pointed. On St. Patrick's Day, a sign was posted on a telephone pole at the frontier of the elementary school playground where wood chips gave way to grass and dog-walking parents often ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

...this isn’t just a novel of ideas; Berne’s scrutiny of upper-middle-class suburbia is also grounded in specific scenes that offer rich fodder for satire: a town meeting, a dinner party, and a book group (particularly ironic since Berne’s novel itself is more than likely to spark heated discussion at countless book groups). Frequently hilarious, always intriguing, Berne’s foray into the dining rooms and psychotherapy offices of Littlefield will prompt readers to look anew at their own aspirations and relationships.   (Reviewed by Norah Piehl).

Full Review (559 words).

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Media Reviews

Booklist
A look at suburban life that manages to be both scathing and sympathetic, Berne's latest is a smart, amusing satire.

The Independent (UK)
Her unique voice comes through in the combination of a forensic approach to her characters' foibles and lyrical descriptions of the changing of the seasons in New England. This is an apparently light tale but there are dark shadows in Littlefield too. Berne's novel is both absorbing and amusing, and lingers in the memory.

The Sunday Telegraph (UK)
Well-observed shrewd satire … sharp, funny and painful. Berne takes the domestic and turns it into the majestic.

The Sunday Mirror (UK)
A compelling, poignant yet unsentimental novel that examines life, love and loss. Original and brilliant.

The Guardian (UK)
Nuanced, thoroughly enjoyable, excellent.

The Daily Mail (UK)
Very well ­written, devastating and funny … insightful, too. Highly recommended

The Sunday Times (UK)
Brilliantly done. Gentle and often moving.

Publishers Weekly
Although the dog poisoning mystery drives the narrative, the novel works best when Berne applies her perceptive tongue-in-cheek voice to the foibles of suburban life, hilariously depicting quotidian problems and trivialities.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. [Berne] is a sure hand at the dinner parties, school concerts, teacup tempests, and true moments of suspense that make a suburban comedy of manners par excellence. It's too bad about the dogs, but they died for a good cause.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Apex, North Carolina - One of the Best Places to Live in America

Apex, NCWhen Dr. Clarice Watkins sets out to academically scrutinize one of the "Best Places to Live in America," she notes that the criteria for making the list include "Good quality of life," along with "Quiet and safe." For many years, Money magazine has compiled its own annual roundups of the "Best Places to Live." According to Money, their rankings feature "places with great jobs, strong economies, affordable homes, excellent schools, and that special something that makes it a great place to live."

Historic Downtown, Apex, NCTopping the list in 2015 was Apex, North Carolina, a town of 42,000 people located about twenty minutes outside Raleigh (thanks to a new toll road built in response to rapid population growth). In their intro, the editors of Money write that "...

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