I knew I’d end up crying when I picked this book up. Lily and the Octopus is is a charming piece of magical realism from Steven Rowley. The story is about a gay writer called Ted and his dachshund, Lily. Lily is everything to Ted – they hold long conversations, have very set routines and she’s also pretty good at Monopoly. One day as Ted looks at Lily he notices that she has an octopus on her head. The octopus is mean spirited and faintly amused at the distress he is causing. Ted needs to get Lily to the vet and see if they can do an octopusectomy, given Lily’s advanced age and the octopus’s location.
It’s fairly obvious to the reader (and the slightly bewildered vet) what the octopus on Lily’s head is, but we gamely play along. As Ted tries to work out how to beat this octopine intruder he recalls his memories of his life since he first met Lily, who was the runt of the litter, and instantly fell in love with her.
As Lily’s condition deteriorates so does reality as Ted embarks upon a deep sea octopus hunt with her by his side. It all gets a little odd but it’s a nice piece of writing that reminds me faintly of Life of Pi.
If you’ve ever had a dog or are a dog lover then you will very easily recognise in Lily’s character the parts of the personality that make us love them so. She’s a feisty little pup who gets very excited at sausages and loves her owner wholeheartedly. Ted’s character seems a little less well defined in comparison. We know he gets on well with his family and he’s reluctantly dating after the breakdown of his previous relationship. Although he’s a writer he doesn’t seem to do a whole lot of writing, despite his clearly overactive imagination. Everyone and everything in this book only seems to exist in relation to the sweet little sausage dog.
I don’t think this book is for everyone but I certainly enjoyed it. I gather the book is somewhat autobiographical in nature so I’m not sure whether the author could really manage to pull off another book as well. I’d certainly check his work out in future.