Lily and the Octopus - Steven Rowley

So here's the (very short) pitch that got me to buy this novel:

This is a story about that special someone: the one you trust, the one you can’t live without.

For Ted Flask, that someone special is his aging companion Lily, who happens to be a dog.


The novel has a weird but memorable title. It has a dog in it and man who talks to it. 


The reviews on GoodReads use phrases like "quirky and emotional" and tear-jerker."


It has an attractive cover with a blurb from the writer of another quirky and emotional book with a dog in it.


What's not to like? It sounded like just my sort of thing.


Except that, as it turns out, it really wasn't. I made it through about an hour of the audiobook and decided life was too short.


The thing is, if you're going to read a 300+ page book about a lonely middle-aged man watching his much-loved, twelve year old, dachshund die, it's not enough to feel sorry for the dog, you have to like the man. I found Ted Flask annoying. He's insecure, nervous, addicted to therapy from mediocre therapists and introspective almost to the point of narcissism. He's so highly-strung, he's exhausting to spend time with. He loves his dog; that's touching but it doesn't make him any easy to be with and anyway, who doesn't love a dog they've spent twelve years living with every day?


Flask's self-defensive attempts at humour are thin and sometimes painful attempts at distraction.


Then, there's the whole octopus metaphor. I can see it was meant to be quirky and original and perhaps even, quietly brave but, to me, it came across as too contrived and too self-serving. The dog has cancer. Spit it out. Deal with it. Don't turn it into an extended metaphor for all that is ugly and unacceptable in life.


The book is well written and very well narrated, if it wasn't I wouldn't have had such a strong reaction to it, but I am fundamentally out of sympathy with it.