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Title: The Dogs of Babel
Author: Carolyn Parkhurst
Specs: Hardcover 264 pages
Price: $21.95
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Date: June 2003
ISBN: 0316168688

By Dede Bergen

Paul Iverson returns home to find his wife dead. The police have ruled it an accident - they state she fell out of the backyard apple tree. In the days that follow Lexy's sudden death, Paul uncovers strange clues. He believes her death isn't this simple. There's too much he can't seem to ignore. Paul becomes obsessed with revealing any truth that he can find in Lexy's death. Paul begins to teach their dog Lorelei, the only witness to Lexy's death, to speak to him. His attempts, through many experiments and his vast knowledge of linguistics, prove to be comedic as well as tragic. In his relationship with their dog, he reveals timidity, resolve, and fortitude that may not have resided in their marriage.

Through reoccurring flashbacks, Parkhurst's use of the male voice in this novel indicates she works well using a male POV for narration. Only a few bumpy passages bring the reader out of the story. Flashbacks that Paul Iverson experiences reveal the unique and quixotic marriage that he and Lexy shared - from their first meeting at a garage sale, to their first date that took them all the way to Disney World and back, to the days that led up to Lexy's death. While remembering better days spent with his wife Paul embarks on a wild journey searching for the truth. The character escapades keep your interest in this.

:: Carolyn Parkhurst :: Author of The Dogs of Babel ::Parkhurst's debut novel delves into the world of mystery, romance, ghost story, and tragedy. She adds twists and turns to the plot that enhance her exploration into a wide range of emotions and symbolism.

Last year, Esquire said her book was, "one of 34 reasons to be optimistic about 2003."

Book magazine calls Parkhurst "one of the new writers to watch."

Literary Trivia - Ever tried the Spa Treatment for slow selling novels? Agatha did it.

Agatha Christie, born September 15, 1890.

Here are tidy bits about her life. When things got tough for her, she escaped to a spa in what may have been, in the 1890s, one of the first well-planned publicity stunts by a woman author. It was that, or book revisions were making her personal windmills tilt. Either way, we wish Agatha a very belated birthday. More trivia:

Mary Clarissa Agatha Miller, later known as Agatha Christie, is born Torquay, Devon, England. Educated at Ashfield, her parents’ comfortable home, Christie began making up stories as a child. Her mother and her older sister Madge also made up stories; Madge told especially thrilling tales about a fictional, mentally deranged older sister.

Agatha married Colonel Archibald Christie in 1914, before World War I, and had one daughter. While her husband was off fighting in World War I, Christie worked as an assistant in a pharmacy, where she learned about poisons. She began to write on a dare from her sister and produced her first mystery novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920), featuring Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, who would appear in 25 more novels during the next quarter century. The novel found modest success, and she continued writing. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926) became a bestseller, and she enjoyed phenomenal success for the rest of her life.

Agatha Christie entered a period of emotional turmoil after the death of her mother and a divorce from her first husband. She disappeared for 11 days, eventually turning up at a health spa. Her disappearance was highly publicized, and an expensive government search ensued. She was later criticized for not coming forward with her whereabouts.

In 1930, she married archeologist Sir Max Mallowan and accompanied him on expeditions to the Middle East, which became the setting for many of her novels. She then created Miss Marple, one of her most beloved detectives. All told, Christie wrote some 80 novels, 30 short story collections, and 15 plays, plus six romances under the pen name Mary Westmacott. She was knighted in 1971 and died in 1976, just a year after she killed off Poirot in the novel Curtain: Hercule Poirot’s Last Case. Poirot received a front-page obituary in the New York Times on August 6, 1975.

By the time Christie died, more than 400 million copies of her books had been sold in more than 100 languages.

Literary Trivia - If you are going to gossip, for heaven sake take a seat next to Madame Bovary.

October 1, 1856 - First installment of Madame Bovary is published.

On this day, the Revue de Paris publishes the first segment of Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert. The novel was published in installments from this day until December 15, 1856.

The novel, about the romantic illusions of a country doctor's wife and her adulterous liaisons, scandalized French traditionalists. Flaubert was brought to trial for obscenity in 1857. He was acquitted, and the book became a popular success.

The book's realistic, serious portrayal of humble characters and situations became a milestone of French realism. Flaubert, the son of the chief surgeon of the hospital in Rouen, France, began writing stories in his teens. In 1840, he went to Paris to study law but failed his exams.

In 1846, he began a long, tempestuous affair with poet Louise Colet, which ended bitterly in 1855. Meanwhile, he traveled extensively with French writer Maxime du Camp, taking extended walking tours with her and journeying to Greece, Syria, and Egypt from 1849 to 1851. When Flaubert returned from the journey, he began work on Madame Bovary, which took five years to write.

The book was a hit, as was Flaubert's 1862 novel, Salammbo. The novel's detailed portrayal of ancient Carthage, based on the author's trip to Tunisia in 1860, launched a Tunisian fad in Paris. His 1869 novel, Sentimental Education, about the July 1848 French uprising, was not well received. In 1877, his story collection Three Tales, including the story A Simple Heart, was published. Flaubert died in 1880.

Literary History Tidbits: courtesy of The History Channel.

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