Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis recently won a couple of prestigious literary awards and that book got me thinking about other adult novels featuring animals as main characters. As children, we were exposed to several books with non-human protagonists; Charlotte’s Web, Watership Down, The Wind in the Willows, The Jungle Books, Black Beauty, The Call of the Wild and White Fang come immediately to mind. As students we read Animal Farm. And who can forget Archy and Mehitabel, the classic tale of Archy the cockroach and Mehitabel the cat?
But there is still adult fiction being written which has animal narrators or animals as major characters. Here are ten titles from Schatje’s Shelves; all would be classified as contemporary fiction.
Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis features a group of pet dogs who are suddenly given human intelligence.
Carmen Dog by Carol Emshwiller, about women turning into animals and animals turning into women, is a feminist satire of gender roles.
The White Bone by Barbara Gowdy is a classic quest story featuring a herd of elephants.
A Beautiful Truth by Colin McAdam is narrated from the dual perspectives of a family that has adopted a chimp and a group of chimpanzees in a research institute.
The Bees by Laline Paull has a sanitation worker bee as its narrator.
Shakespeare's Dog by Leon Rooke is the story of William Shakespeare’s relationship with Anne Hathaway as narrated by his dog.
Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife by Sam Savage is about the coming-of-age of a well-read rat living in the basement of an old bookshop in 1960s Boston.
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein features Enzo, a lab terrier mix, as a narrator. In his twilight years, Enzo thinks back on his life with a race car driver and reflects on all he has learned about the human condition.
Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann is a mystery with a flock of sheep as the detectives.
A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny is narrated by Snuff, dog-companion to Jack the Ripper.
In the same vein, CBC recently came out with this list: http://www.cbc.ca/books/2015/11/10-canadian-novels-to-read-if-you-love-animals.html.
Suggestions for other titles in this sub-genre?