Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley – Review

Published by Simon and Schuster

Publication date – 14 July 2016

Source – review copy


“‘Intelligently written, finely observed and surprisingly moving, this is a book you’ll find hard to put down’ Graeme Simsion, author of The Rosie Project

Companions come in all shapes and sizes.
Companionship lasts forever.

Lily and the Octopus is a novel about finding that special someone to share your life with.
For Ted Flask, that someone is Lily, and she happens to be a dog.
This novel reminds us how to love fiercely, how difficult it can be to let go and how the fight for those we love is the greatest fight of all.

Reminiscent of The Life of Pi and The Art of Racing in the Rain, with spins into magic realism and beautifully evoked universal truths of love, loyalty and loss, a hilariously sardonic and not altogether reliable narrator, and one unforgettable hound who simple wisdom will break your heart and put it back together again, Lily and the Octopus captures the search for meaning in death and introduces a dazzling new voice in fiction.”

Lily and Ted have spent 12 blissful years together. Just because Lily is a dachshund and Ted is man in his 40s doesn’t mean their relationship means any less. But suddenly it would appear that their time together may be drawing to an end. An interloper, an octopus, has started to take Lily away from Ted. But Ted isn’t willing to give up without a fight…
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.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. MarinaSofia says:

    I have to admit the title puts me off a little – it sounds like a children’s book in its deliberate simplicity. But the way you describe, it sounds like a refreshingly different kind of read. Help!
    So many tempting options you throw my way…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      I’m sorry (not really :-)). It does sound like it could be a fun, light-hearted read and there are funny moments in it, but its much more reflective than that 🙂


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