#bookclub Feature by SJV
“This is a very moving story of the finality of life. As humans we know from a relatively young age that our life is a finite one. We accept it, as we have to, forgetting so that we can get through each day, until for one reason or another, mortality confronts us. In this surreal story, full of magical realism, Ted has to address his feelings towards death, whether he wishes to fight it, rail against it and deny it will happen. It did take me a little while to get used to Ted’s viewpoint on what was happening, to understand his codes and the things he didn’t say. But once I did I was soon wrapped up the story, a story that is tinged equally with sadness and happiness.
It is very difficult to review this book as to do so could give away the story and it is one that each reader will generate their own take on. For me, the story of Lily and her octopus was a metaphor for fighting against the tide of grief, as if by delaying it and denying it, the inevitable end will not appear. This is a story of grief, of how it is possible to grieve for someone who is still here, and how it is permissible to do so. the rage that Ted feels is perfectly immortalised as the Octopus, has he fights it’s clinging hold over Lily, and vicariously Ted.
The novel is partly autobiographical for author Steven Rowley did have a dachshund called Lily and we can read a little about her at the end of the novel. The characters are a joy to read. Ted is a lovely man, committed to his friends, his sister and Lily and aware to some degree of his faults, for example the distant relationship he has with his mother. As the story progresses we see Ted evaluating his life, assessing where things might have gone wrong and acknowledging things in himself he wishes to change. Lily is beautifully portrayed, with a subtle balance between animal and humanisation. She reflects characteristics of Ted that he perhaps doesn’t see in himself and brings out the best in him. Ted’s friend Trent and sister Meredith bring comedy and compassion to the story and Bryon, who appears for only a few pages, almost shines off those pages, such is the portrayal by Steven Rowley.
I’m not one who normally cries at books, nor do I seek out ones that I think will induce eye rain, as Lily calls it. But I admit there was a little optical precipitation at parts of this very moving story.
This book is a moving testament to love, and shows that love between a pet and owner is just as valid as any other type of love.”
“Lily and the Octopus is just a story about a man, Ted Flask, who loves his dog, Lily. There are really only a few characters explored, the Dachshund Lily, the narrator Ted and the ‘octopus’. It ought to have a high ‘So what?’ factor and yet it is so much more in a beautifully poignant, heart wrenching tale of love, loss and grief that I could relate to completely.
Steven Rowley writes with such passion in an allegorical, mystical and compelling manner. The narrator, Ted, is not altogether truthful and reliable at times and there are passages of surprising violence, but this only serves to underline the gut wrenching emotion he is feeling. There is rage, sorrow, anger and the deepest of love that is so all encompassing that towards the end I read with tears (or eye rain) streaming down my face. As well as Ted’s connection with Lily, we get to see a real man; one who struggles with a range of relationships with family, friends and potential boyfriends so that it is impossible not to want the best for him, to want to hold and comfort him too.
Alongside this emotion is also lightness of touch and humour. Self effacing and aware of his own ridiculousness the first person narrator is not above a wry and sarcastic turn of phrase. I found the writing really effective. The variety of sentence length, the vibrancy of the present tense, the naturalness of the dialogue, the touches of description all combine in a vibrant new voice that I think will be a huge success. Comparisons have been made with other writers and books but I think this is erroneous. Steven Rowley has a unique style of his own that is almost impossible to define. I cannot recommend Lily and the Octopus highly enough. To quote Lily I! LOVE! IT!”