Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Last Days of Dogtown

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I had tried to read this book a few years back and only got about 2 chapters into it before something else caught my fancy and I wondered that-a-way instead.  I had always meant to go back and read it but as I was perusing the audio book shelf at my library the other day I happened upon it and grabbed it.  Thus bringing me to the realization that most of the books I listen to are books I didn't get through on paper, but I digress.  I very much enjoyed learning about the last days of Dogtown. The entire plot of the book is in the title so there weren't any big surprises there, but the characters were well developed, their stories were interesting, and I was glad to learn some new tidbits to tuck away in the back of my mind for that one day that I might end up on a game show.  The Last Days Of Dogtown by Anita Diamant (author of The Red Tent {one or my favorites}) is a semi-fictional account of the last years of a small community on the outskirts of Gloucester on Cape Ann in Massachusetts. Dogtown was a very poor cluster of hovels, a few taverns, a church, and a whorehouse that stood a few miles outside of Gloucester and that had a unique collection of residents as well as a pack of stray dogs.  The little community was very poor and the people in the neighboring towns looked at these people with disdain and pity.

The story starts off when one of the residents is found dead and is brought to Easter Carter's home/boarding house.  The whole community of Dogtown turns out to view the dead man and here begins the introduction of all the characters.  The rest of the story explores each of the members of this little society and how their days ended or how they eventually left Dogtown for a better life.  Each chapter focuses on a particular person and tells a little antidote about their lives in Dogtown.  Toward the end of the book the chapters switch gears and revisits these same characters but it depicts them at the end of their time in Dogtown whether that be death or other circumstance. Along the way all their paths cross each other and you realize the alliances, romances, and animosity among them all.  It is a very interesting examination of the dynamics of a small town in the early 1800s.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Last Days of Dogtown.  I love historical fiction and this time period and location of history especially.  And like The Red Tent Anita Daimant has done a dang good job of painting a picture with her words.  The book is beautifully written; by the time it is over you really feel a connection with a few of the characters.  I would recommend this book to anyone that has a soft spot for historical fiction as well as book clubs, I think there could be a lot of discussion on this book.  I have been to Gloucester before but now I would like to go back having read this book and visit the remains of Dogtown.  I hear there isn't much to see but you can explore the area and see the foundations of some of the homes.  Some of the characters in the book were based off of real members of this community and it would be interesting to see where they really lived.

BOOK vs. MOVIE:  There isn't a movie (not even one brewing) but if there were I would go and see it.  And really there wouldn't be anything to mess up because this is a story that would only be better if the characters were fleshed out a little bit more.

RATING: 4 stars

2 More Reviews of The Last Days of Dogtown ( I couldn't find 3 reviews!!):

The Last Days of Dogtown by Anita Diamant
(got at the library)
ISBN 0743550986
9 Discs (10hours 30 minutes)
Narrated by Kate Nelligan

If you liked The Last Days of Dogtown then please read:  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows 


  1. I'm glad you liked this. I loved The Red Tent, but this one just did nothing for me & I typically am OK with novels that rely heavily on characterization. Nice review!

  2. The funny thing is I didn't realize that she was the author until after I read the book. Then when I knew could see the attention to detail that she put into the Red Tent!