Good Dogs Don’t Make it to the South Pole

(Edit (25/01/20): I think this book had a much darker ending that I realised at the time of finishing it. It’s only been two days of course but my mind keeps returning to this story, going over the things that happened in it. This is not a light story – it’s kept buoyant by the humour, but actually it deals with some rather confronting and depressing things.)

What an odd book this was and before you think I have complaints, I mean it in the nicest way. This was five stars for me so you know I like it. It’s my second five star novel for 2020 yet, unlike My Sister, the Serial Killer (which is fab and I recommend it) this one will remain on my shelf of favourite books. They’re the ones I like to get out now and then and reads snippets of, or just scan, or that I think I’ll re-read at some stage and Good Dogs don’t make it to the South Pole I will most likely read again once I get to feeling elderly (if not before).

Besides that, I have a feeling that there are deeper things to be gained from this novel that I’ve missed. That happens to me sometime, particularly if the ‘deeper things’ are those with which I’m not familiar or haven’t experienced. Then I can miss them more easily. So I feel like there is more for me in this book and I’ll be keeping an eye on other peoples reviews to see if this is true. Of course, I could be mistaken. Maybe Thyvold’s story simply is what it is. In that case, no problem – because I loved it!

The story is written by a dog called Tassen. He’s a clever dog, though he doesn’t always understand the world of humans (hey, that could be said for many of us), and this leads to many funny moments. Tassen is a sweet soul and his view of the world was fascinating. We share similar views on poetry, I found…not so keen on it. The novel finds him giving opinions on various animals species—and dog breeds, pondering whether this makes him a racist, and watching the “Dr Pill” show with his owner Mrs Thorkildsen.

Tassen branches out socially but much of the book is based around his relationship with Mrs Thorkildsen, their outings together, their talks, and their readings together. Yes, I said talks and readings. I can’t really explain it to you but it’s not creepy or weird – it works beautifully. Now, the reading is important because another focus of the book is their exploration of Roald Amundsen’s trip to the South Pole (beating Scott’s one, which ended in his death). If you don’t think you could get interested in a South Pole trip, then this may not be the book for you. Also, it was harsh. Few participants got a good deal and especially not the dogs.

However, there’s more. Mrs Thorkildsen is an elderly woman who is now on her own (her husband passes at the beginning). I feel like Thyvold deals deftly with her concerns about ageing and what the future holds. I will not say too much about this because I think it’s best you learn from reading the book.

This was an Advance Reader Copy so I can’t quote it at this stage, but if I could, I would add at least a dozen quotes to Goodreads today. I made many pencil marks while reading and I think when my library gets a published copy I’ll give you the quotes then. I feel like I need to with this novel.

Good Dogs don’t make it to the South Pole was a joy to read despite the difficult, sad and sometimes downright nasty realities it dealt with.

Thank you to the publisher, Allen and Unwin, and the author, Hans-Olav Thyvold, for this copy given in return for my honest review.

Title | Good Dogs don’t make it to the South Pole

By | Hans-Olav Thyvold

Published | 2020 Allen and Unwin

M. N. Cox

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