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The Dogs of Littlefield

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A “brilliantly done” (Sunday Times, London) comedy of manners that explores the unease behind the manicured lawns of suburban America from the Orange Prize–winning author of A Crime in the Neighborhood. Littlefield, Massachusetts, named one of the Ten Best Places to Live in America, full of psychologists and college professors, is proud of its fine schools, its girls’ socce A “brilliantly done” (Sunday Times, London) comedy of manners that explores the unease behind the manicured lawns of suburban America from the Orange Prize–winning author of A Crime in the Neighborhood. Littlefield, Massachusetts, named one of the Ten Best Places to Live in America, full of psychologists and college professors, is proud of its fine schools, its girls’ soccer teams, its leafy streets, and charming village center. Yet no sooner has sociologist Dr. Clarice Watkins arrived to study the elements of “good quality of life” than someone begins poisoning the town’s dogs. Are the poisonings in protest to an off-leash proposal for Baldwin Park—the subject of much town debate—or the sign of a far deeper disorder? Certainly these types of things don’t happen in Littlefield. With an element of suspense, satirical social commentary, and in-depth character portraits, Suzanne Berne’s nuanced novel reveals the discontent concealed behind the manicured lawns and picket fences of darkest suburbia. The Dogs of Littlefield is “a compelling, poignant yet unsentimental novel that examines life, love, and loss” (Sunday Mirror, UK).


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A “brilliantly done” (Sunday Times, London) comedy of manners that explores the unease behind the manicured lawns of suburban America from the Orange Prize–winning author of A Crime in the Neighborhood. Littlefield, Massachusetts, named one of the Ten Best Places to Live in America, full of psychologists and college professors, is proud of its fine schools, its girls’ socce A “brilliantly done” (Sunday Times, London) comedy of manners that explores the unease behind the manicured lawns of suburban America from the Orange Prize–winning author of A Crime in the Neighborhood. Littlefield, Massachusetts, named one of the Ten Best Places to Live in America, full of psychologists and college professors, is proud of its fine schools, its girls’ soccer teams, its leafy streets, and charming village center. Yet no sooner has sociologist Dr. Clarice Watkins arrived to study the elements of “good quality of life” than someone begins poisoning the town’s dogs. Are the poisonings in protest to an off-leash proposal for Baldwin Park—the subject of much town debate—or the sign of a far deeper disorder? Certainly these types of things don’t happen in Littlefield. With an element of suspense, satirical social commentary, and in-depth character portraits, Suzanne Berne’s nuanced novel reveals the discontent concealed behind the manicured lawns and picket fences of darkest suburbia. The Dogs of Littlefield is “a compelling, poignant yet unsentimental novel that examines life, love, and loss” (Sunday Mirror, UK).

30 review for The Dogs of Littlefield

  1. 5 out of 5

    aPriL does feral sometimes

    'The Dogs of Littlefield' by Suzanne Berne is incredibly dull. It won a minor award, but why on earth was this book awarded anything? Reading this is like watching paint dry. I think it is supposed to be a literary novel, but the only message I picked up is an obvious implication that the people of Littlefield are like their leashed castrated dogs, as pampered and neurotic as any bored neutered animal. This little-field of a story struck me as a very small slice of processed white-bread suburban 'The Dogs of Littlefield' by Suzanne Berne is incredibly dull. It won a minor award, but why on earth was this book awarded anything? Reading this is like watching paint dry. I think it is supposed to be a literary novel, but the only message I picked up is an obvious implication that the people of Littlefield are like their leashed castrated dogs, as pampered and neurotic as any bored neutered animal. This little-field of a story struck me as a very small slice of processed white-bread suburban-angst indeed. As the school year is beginning the current ongoing argument occupying the adult inhabitants of Littlefield is whether those who own dogs should be permitted to allow the dogs to go off-leash in a specific park. Then, suddenly the dogs are being poisoned, so everybody is vaguely on edge. This is a town of mostly well-to-do upper middle-class professionals, and there is usually not much that causes worry in this pretty well-kept place of nice houses, clean parks, good schools and nice manners. Margaret owns a young black lab called Binx. He is on leash most of the time, but he usually pulls Margaret along with a lot of force. She barely controls his exuberance, and it frustrates her. She also is dissatisfied with her bland marriage to Bill, who appears to no longer have much interest in either Margaret or Julia, their teenage daughter. Margaret participates in civic events, goes to parties, talks to her neighbors, thinks about having an affair. Julia is slightly depressed, but she doesn't want too much from anyone anyway, and she watches her parents, worrying about them and Binx. Bill is worried he doesn't appear to care much about anything. (They worry and worry for 300 pages despite their lack of real problems. I thought the anxieties were all born of ennui. The characters all lack any interior life, and that is the true source of their problems.) (view spoiler)[As the seasons change, Binx has to be castrated, and it has the effect of calming him down too much. There are a number of worried conversations between the major characters about their married relationships. The dog poisonings, which soon stop after five dogs die, were of no consequence since the perpetrator was trying to kill the coyotes that were wandering about. A new neighbor moves in nearby who is a college professor studying the town for their happiness and contentment, but she does not find any. Julia has a minor accident. Everybody experiences vague anxieties, but except for the mystery of the few poisonings, there is almost no real drama or danger except for that imagined by Margaret and Julia and others as we follow them for a year in the novel. The college professor discovers Littlefield has more therapists than any other occupation living there, which the professor can't understand since during the year that she lives in Littlefield, nothing really goes wrong there. I can't understand it either, because this book never built up any energy or speed or meaning or drama or action, unless it was simply to develop the message that being financially stable ends up being a bore causing people to create a bit of imaginary drama, but no one thinks to push beyond suburban social mores. I think the author hates shallow upper-class suburban dwellers wallowing in self-pity as much as I do, but this book seemed to sputter out like a badly-made candle after a meek attempt to enlighten. If it was supposed to be funny, it wasn't. (hide spoiler)] The people and dogs of Littlefield have very little in their lives to engage them. Due to pedestrian writing, undeveloped characters and inane situations which end in a dud, there was little here to engage me either.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Tara - Running 'n' Reading

    I think I may have set my sights a little high for this one; I'd had my eye on it since it's publication date was announced last year and I was really hoping for some super-snarky reading about this "idyllic," fictitious, upper crust Massachusetts neighborhood where the residents are consumed with first world problems like the mystery of several dogs being poisoned. So, please note that this may be a great book for many of you; it just wasn't what I'd expected. What I Really Liked- The beautifull I think I may have set my sights a little high for this one; I'd had my eye on it since it's publication date was announced last year and I was really hoping for some super-snarky reading about this "idyllic," fictitious, upper crust Massachusetts neighborhood where the residents are consumed with first world problems like the mystery of several dogs being poisoned. So, please note that this may be a great book for many of you; it just wasn't what I'd expected. What I Really Liked- The beautifully descriptive writing: Houses, stop signs, bicycle fenders, all wore a precise, gleaming look, a clarity brought on by the cool, dry weather, and in the evenings the light turned gold as it was gathered into the harlequin trees, caught within nets of branches and leaves. Some of the characters, especially the secondary characters: Someone last winter saw a black bear, though the bear turned out to be Mrs. Beale, head of the Baldwin Park Garden Collective, examining the chicken-wire fencing in her old mink coat. The author's perspective on the human condition: [...] she had stumbled onto the most unbalanced people of all: they were afraid of everything. They projected their fears onto everything. Everything they could do nothing about, but had the wit to recognize. What I Didn't Like- Some of the aforementioned descriptive writing seemed a little forced, as if the author was reaching to overcome a slow plot and a disconnect between the mingling story lines. There were so many characters; I realize that this is a story about a community, but I would really have enjoyed a little more depth. Some of the characters were delightful, and I would've enjoyed reading more about them; isn't that what a "character-driven" novel is all about? The "mystery" of the dog murders was so lightly touched upon that I almost forgot about it; it was sewn up very neatly at the ending. While I considered giving up on this one, it is certainly not without merit; I think that the dog mystery is oversold and, if you take that away, there is some entertaining comedy and lovely writing...just not quite enough to pull it all together, for me.

  3. 4 out of 5

    David

    Briefly put: well written and mostly engaging. Though I didn't find it humourous as was cited on the front cover! And the dogs themselves play a bit-part in the novel. The only real downside that i couldn't get away from was that the book read more like the output from a creative writing course than a novel. Briefly put: well written and mostly engaging. Though I didn't find it humourous as was cited on the front cover! And the dogs themselves play a bit-part in the novel. The only real downside that i couldn't get away from was that the book read more like the output from a creative writing course than a novel.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Cathi

    You know how often books grow on you? They start out slow or confusing or whatever, and they just get better and better. Well, this book sort of shrunk on me! I liked it a lot at first. The characters and their challenges grabbed me, and the sense of community in this New England town seemed so interesting. I wanted to know what was going to happen to everyone. But as the book went along, everyone just started getting on my nerves, and I didn't care as much what happened to them. Granted, the bo You know how often books grow on you? They start out slow or confusing or whatever, and they just get better and better. Well, this book sort of shrunk on me! I liked it a lot at first. The characters and their challenges grabbed me, and the sense of community in this New England town seemed so interesting. I wanted to know what was going to happen to everyone. But as the book went along, everyone just started getting on my nerves, and I didn't care as much what happened to them. Granted, the book has some sly humor and good commentary on our modern society (loveless marriages, kids who have everything-yet-nothing, etc.), but no one was likable enough for me to care very much. Also, the small element of fantasy was confusing and wrapped up in a pat sort of way. The whole ending was just "blah." So I guess I'm giving it three stars because I loved it so much in the beginning and had such hopes for this novel. (I thought it might be sort of an Anne Tyler style.) But it left me cold.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

    In this glimpse of the lives of the upper middle class, a theme of despondency seems to be the norm. With all the ingredients needed to be happy, how come this sheltered town brimming with psychoanalysts and therapists has so many problems? Built against the backdrop of a mystery regarding the poisoning of several dogs in town, this story is really about the relationships and inner turmoil of a family: father, mother & daughter. Troubles manifest as each person looks to relieve their own anxiety In this glimpse of the lives of the upper middle class, a theme of despondency seems to be the norm. With all the ingredients needed to be happy, how come this sheltered town brimming with psychoanalysts and therapists has so many problems? Built against the backdrop of a mystery regarding the poisoning of several dogs in town, this story is really about the relationships and inner turmoil of a family: father, mother & daughter. Troubles manifest as each person looks to relieve their own anxiety & fear. While the story is well written and gives enough detail to distinguish each character, the inner struggle we are given access to does not resonate with me. Human frailty and self-doubt is spotlighted, but the conclusions of the characters just does not seem likely. The ending is going to leave many readers frustrated. Without divulging a spoiler, I can only say that much is left up to the reader to fill in. This type of story, nestled in a safe environment and focused on the dreams, foibles and real life frustrations of daily life will appeal to certain readers. Without a definitive ending or even a substantial plot line, it does not work well for me. * I received a free copy of this book from a Goodreads giveaway *

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jane Bolster

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I decided to read this book as it has been short listed for the Baileys women's prize for fiction. From reading the blurb I thought the main theme of the book would be the dog killer however it actually focuses on the life of a housewife and the problems she has with her husband. I did not feel engaged with the characters and struggled to finish the book as I found it fairly uninteresting. When the dog killer was revealed it was extremely disappointing and almost obvious ( the character had been I decided to read this book as it has been short listed for the Baileys women's prize for fiction. From reading the blurb I thought the main theme of the book would be the dog killer however it actually focuses on the life of a housewife and the problems she has with her husband. I did not feel engaged with the characters and struggled to finish the book as I found it fairly uninteresting. When the dog killer was revealed it was extremely disappointing and almost obvious ( the character had been mentioned by name as the husband of a minor character and described as strange) then low and behold in the next chapter he was the killer! I just wanted more from this novel - I was expecting a twist that just did not come. The book does explore reality well and the sadness of real life and relationships. However I tend to agree with what Mrs. Beale stated in the novel in relation to what authors should provide ' what we need in this world are bravery and honour. Models of decency. Not more zombies and monsters and strange behaviour.' The Dogs of Littlefield was a 280 page novel describing the marriage problems of middle class suburbia which just left me feeling uninspired.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Neesha

    Enjoyed this more than I thought I would. I picked it up at the library because the premise sounded interesting, and it was, but the prose turned out to be absolutely lovely and there were many layers to the story giving it more meaning and weight. Berne's writing was reminiscent of Stef Penney's Tenderness of Wolves, which for me is one of the most beautifully written books I've ever read. This book is also well worth reading. Enjoyed this more than I thought I would. I picked it up at the library because the premise sounded interesting, and it was, but the prose turned out to be absolutely lovely and there were many layers to the story giving it more meaning and weight. Berne's writing was reminiscent of Stef Penney's Tenderness of Wolves, which for me is one of the most beautifully written books I've ever read. This book is also well worth reading.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Christina Rochester

    This book was pretty meh. I struggled to get into it at all, and even the mystery surrounding the dogs wasn’t the main part of the book. In fact the dogs only play a bit part, and the main character according to the blurb isn’t the main character. The book instead seems to be focusing primarily on one rather unhappy marriage. To me the only exciting part was when a teenage girl almost fell through the ice. Sorry but this one isn’t getting a recommendation from me.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    A rare 5 from me! I just love how meticulously Berne crafts a story.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kali

    Trigger Warnings: Animal death This book was not bad at all, in fact I actually think it can be very emotional and impactful if read by the right type! Sadly, though, I did not feel as connected to it as I would have liked. Perhaps this is because I am not yet an adult and do not live the lives like the characters in the book, which is understandable and maybe I should not reach for Adult books (haha like I’ll ever stop! Me not resonating with the characters can’t hold me back 😆). I will say that Trigger Warnings: Animal death This book was not bad at all, in fact I actually think it can be very emotional and impactful if read by the right type! Sadly, though, I did not feel as connected to it as I would have liked. Perhaps this is because I am not yet an adult and do not live the lives like the characters in the book, which is understandable and maybe I should not reach for Adult books (haha like I’ll ever stop! Me not resonating with the characters can’t hold me back 😆). I will say that this book was a lot different than the description on the novel itself. I assumed it would focus a lot more on the dogs themselves and who was doing what (basically I assumed it was a mystery, which was also my bad for not understanding properly). This book actually focused a LOT more on small town dynamics and family. I feel like it did a very good job at showing raw and real relationships. Also, as someone who deals with mental illness, I would love to thank the author for portraying depression in an accurate way. For the most part the ending was amazing. I feel like some things could definitely have been left out, however I also understand why it was added and why the author felt it was important to keep. As for the characters, they were written so well and I felt like I really understood them in a personal way. There were many ‘perspectives’ so readers get to see the lives of many townspeople, which could get confusing at times but I feel like the positives of it well outweighs the negatives. Also...the writing. It was SO GOOD 🥰 I’m not quite sure what I loved about it so much, but it flowed like poetry and the imagery was beautiful. I’ll definitely be looking for some of her other works in the future!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Glen U

    "The Dogs of Littlefield" is a fictionalized study of an affluent suburb in America. It hits a little close to home as it mirrors the community where I am employed. "...full of psychologists and college professors, is proud of its fine schools, its girl's soccer teams, its leafy streets, and its charming village center." This description is from the book's liner notes and is the epitome of the upper middle class, white collar, homogeneous environment I am familiar with. What happens in Littlefie "The Dogs of Littlefield" is a fictionalized study of an affluent suburb in America. It hits a little close to home as it mirrors the community where I am employed. "...full of psychologists and college professors, is proud of its fine schools, its girl's soccer teams, its leafy streets, and its charming village center." This description is from the book's liner notes and is the epitome of the upper middle class, white collar, homogeneous environment I am familiar with. What happens in Littlefield, the town in Berne's book, could happen real life America. I give great kudos to Berne for extrapolating a story of such striking realism, at least in my opinion, of what goes on in the minds and hearts of suburbia America. The style of writing is elegant and descriptive, the pacing is fine, but sometimes I was lost in the ruminations of the main characters. I know the dogs must be a metaphorical allusion to something, I just haven't figured out exactly what yet. All in all, the book was not what I expected, and on the whole was a little depressing because it did mirror people so accurately. Final feelings left with the reader are one of life is meant to be endured, not enjoyed, and to me that is a dismal outlook.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    I wanted to enjoy this book a lot more than I actually did. The premise sounded fun and engaging but the book was neither. I live in the Boston suburb that this book was clearly written about and perhaps part of my disappointment with the story is that it does nothing for the city or the inhabitants but I'm not sure the story line itself really does much anyway. It starts out as a bit of a mystery (who is killing the dogs?!) but the dog issue becomes a sort of sideline to the unhappy lives of so I wanted to enjoy this book a lot more than I actually did. The premise sounded fun and engaging but the book was neither. I live in the Boston suburb that this book was clearly written about and perhaps part of my disappointment with the story is that it does nothing for the city or the inhabitants but I'm not sure the story line itself really does much anyway. It starts out as a bit of a mystery (who is killing the dogs?!) but the dog issue becomes a sort of sideline to the unhappy lives of some of the folks who live there. The visiting sociologist who comes to town to observe the "good quality of life" doesn't seem to grasp much from the perspective of the people involved and I think that her credibility as a character is questionable at best. Overall the book is a bit disconnected from one interaction to the next and I found it a tad uninteresting by the time I was halfway through, which other readers have mentioned.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Judith

    Poor Margaret---nobody likes her. Her husband is completely disinterested; her teenage daughter can't get away from her fast enough; and even her married lover disdains her. And small wonder: all Margaret does is chase around other characters whining for attention. Is the reader supposed to like Margaret? Oh and by the way, someone is poisoning the dogs of Littlefield but it's hard to care about even the dogs in this little story peopled by pathetic little creatures both two- and four-legged. Poor Margaret---nobody likes her. Her husband is completely disinterested; her teenage daughter can't get away from her fast enough; and even her married lover disdains her. And small wonder: all Margaret does is chase around other characters whining for attention. Is the reader supposed to like Margaret? Oh and by the way, someone is poisoning the dogs of Littlefield but it's hard to care about even the dogs in this little story peopled by pathetic little creatures both two- and four-legged.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kat Walter

    It missed the mark. An okay read for style, not so much story. Adults seeking the nostalgia of their childhood when being a child is not all that great. I don't recommend this book. It missed the mark. An okay read for style, not so much story. Adults seeking the nostalgia of their childhood when being a child is not all that great. I don't recommend this book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Unfortunately for you and me, this was a poorly written book. Is it possible to give a half star? The story just went on and on as if we were reading someone’s daily musings. I don’t get excited reading about someone’s trip to a grocery store unless it has a tie in component to the actual story. Otherwise it’s just filler. And there’s a lot of filler in this book. The characters are essentially all so very dull, dull minded, self absorbed in themselves and their petty little lives. They are the Unfortunately for you and me, this was a poorly written book. Is it possible to give a half star? The story just went on and on as if we were reading someone’s daily musings. I don’t get excited reading about someone’s trip to a grocery store unless it has a tie in component to the actual story. Otherwise it’s just filler. And there’s a lot of filler in this book. The characters are essentially all so very dull, dull minded, self absorbed in themselves and their petty little lives. They are the most blah, depressive, anxiety ridden, sulky, insecure and unbalanced people I’ve ever read about and as such, they irritated the hell out of me. And what about the dogs? There is drama at the start with peoples dogs being killed/murdered - is it a neighbor? Someone in the community? But the focus on the dogs falls short and the story becomes more about a failing marriage. I love dogs; I don’t want to read about someone killing dogs. I flipped through pages at a rapid rate just to get to the end to see if there was ANYTHING that might get my brain cells further activated by finishing this book. Here is my answer: 😵 So, no, don’t bother with this particular one. It’s a waste of time.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Val

    The residents of Littlefield apparently have a very high quality of life. Most of them are comfortably wealthy, without the responsibility of significant riches or the struggle of poverty. It is a pleasant town with a park, communal and individual gardens, countryside nearby, a good school and other amenities. There are plenty of psychoanalysts and psychotherapists to help the residents through any worries they might have. Are they happy? No, they are not. They worry about everything and the spate The residents of Littlefield apparently have a very high quality of life. Most of them are comfortably wealthy, without the responsibility of significant riches or the struggle of poverty. It is a pleasant town with a park, communal and individual gardens, countryside nearby, a good school and other amenities. There are plenty of psychoanalysts and psychotherapists to help the residents through any worries they might have. Are they happy? No, they are not. They worry about everything and the spate of dog poisonings in the area has most of them in a panic. This is a sharply observed social comedy. I enjoyed it, although, contrarily, my first reaction was to wonder if I did not worry about the small stuff enough.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    I started this book after another book that I gave up on and got into the story...at first. The plot revolves around a town that has a bunch of dogs that are being poisoned. The town features a park that allows dogs to run leashless and someone simply doesn't like that, so they are killing off some of the dogs. The book appears to be some sort of mystery, but the plot is extremely dry. I didn't care for really any of the characters, and I especially didn't care about the side characters. It seem I started this book after another book that I gave up on and got into the story...at first. The plot revolves around a town that has a bunch of dogs that are being poisoned. The town features a park that allows dogs to run leashless and someone simply doesn't like that, so they are killing off some of the dogs. The book appears to be some sort of mystery, but the plot is extremely dry. I didn't care for really any of the characters, and I especially didn't care about the side characters. It seemed a bit confusing to keep track of the cast of mostly bland secondary characters. Overall, this book was a miss and I would not recommend it to anyone unless they need a good book to help them sleep at night.

  18. 5 out of 5

    liam

    I thought it was fine. I chose it because it was in my large-print library's fairly limited inventory, and it said it took place in Massachusetts. The description sounded amusing enough- Metrowest bourgeois angst set within a mystery. What surprised me is how well the author captured my sense of what life must be like for wealthy people in those towns just west of Boston (and believe me, I'm barely typing due to the weight of This Here Shoulder Chip). I used to take my kid to a playground in Broo I thought it was fine. I chose it because it was in my large-print library's fairly limited inventory, and it said it took place in Massachusetts. The description sounded amusing enough- Metrowest bourgeois angst set within a mystery. What surprised me is how well the author captured my sense of what life must be like for wealthy people in those towns just west of Boston (and believe me, I'm barely typing due to the weight of This Here Shoulder Chip). I used to take my kid to a playground in Brookline while my spouse had regular business in the neighborhood, and I would see well-dressed parents (the few that went with their kids rather than the nanny), and I would just marvel that they could parent without having to deal with the stress of trying to make sure the bills get paid. It felt like they must parent on the lowest difficulty setting. I know, it's hard for everyone, but I just got this sense that these are people who don't really know problems, especially resonated for me when daycare was taking up most of our paychecks. And the author of this book basically confirmed my feelings about what kind of stress these people encounter. Sure, it's there, but it's not the same. The overall plot is in regards to how emotional these people who basically need nothing become, and create their own fears. The overall story caught my interest, the pacing at times roundabout, and then suddenly jumping, which I also liked. The author plays with point of view in a way that was novel for me. There was the slightest hint of magical realism, which was also interesting. I didn't find most of the characters sympathetic, with the exception of a visiting professor, who i was hoping would have a bigger payoff than she did. I would have preferred more of a farce, or increased absurdity to pair with the overall unlikable cast, instead there is a sullen tone through most of the story, and it didn't work for me. There is a writer character, and goodness am I done with writing about writing. So, an interesting story, a solid three LIVE dogs out of five.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Beatrice Gormley

    I did not shelve this book under "Dog Fiction," because it's not really about the dogs. It's about the people of Littlefield, an affluent New England town of natural beauty and historic charm. The author's description of this setting, and the ways the sights and smells and sounds change with the seasons, is so vivid as to be almost hyper-real. The characters, with their many quirks, are also drawn vividly, to the point that I'd expect to recognize them if I met them at the coffee shop. Most of t I did not shelve this book under "Dog Fiction," because it's not really about the dogs. It's about the people of Littlefield, an affluent New England town of natural beauty and historic charm. The author's description of this setting, and the ways the sights and smells and sounds change with the seasons, is so vivid as to be almost hyper-real. The characters, with their many quirks, are also drawn vividly, to the point that I'd expect to recognize them if I met them at the coffee shop. Most of these people are also discontent or even miserable, and I followed their progress (and regress) avidly. I would have given The Dogs of Littlefield 4 stars, except that after I finishing reading it, I had a kind of "life goes on" feeling. I would have liked more resolution in the main characters' stories. This is not really a criticism, just my preference.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Melinda

    The town of Littlefield, MA is the sixth best place to live in the United States. The population is filled with psychologists, professors and lots of dogs. As the novel begins, the town is divided on whether to have a leash-free zone. Soon dogs mysteriously begin to die from poisoning. I liked the book well enough but I expected a bit more mystery; this book was more a satirical commentary of affluent suburban life - the usual "wealthy people behaving badly". I liked the book well enough but it The town of Littlefield, MA is the sixth best place to live in the United States. The population is filled with psychologists, professors and lots of dogs. As the novel begins, the town is divided on whether to have a leash-free zone. Soon dogs mysteriously begin to die from poisoning. I liked the book well enough but I expected a bit more mystery; this book was more a satirical commentary of affluent suburban life - the usual "wealthy people behaving badly". I liked the book well enough but it just sort of meanders through affairs, angst-ridden teenagers, a social anthropologist secretly doing an expose of the town and even an immigrant bakery worker. The "mystery" was solved in a paragraph at the end of the book and the ending was a bit uncertain and disappointing.

  21. 4 out of 5

    M

    Surprising little book. Although there was nothing to like about any of the characters the writing was great. Tired of the neurotic lives but their stories were woven together well. Christmas dinner scene was best part of the book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Maurissa

    It’s not that this book is bad. But if you’re to read any contemporary fiction about upper middle class white women you’re going to get the same story. The Vacationers by Emma Straub, for example.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Renita D'Silva

    A beautifully realised account of small town living. Sharp and incisive.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tonstant Weader

    Suzanne Berne’s The Dogs of Littlefield is an amusing, but ultimately melancholy book about a town of privileged people, so privileged the town is on the Wall Street Journal’s list of “Twenty Best Places to Live in America.” It is a town so privileged that Dr. Clarice Watkins, a tenured sociologist from Chicago decides to spend time there as a visiting scholar while studying the townspeople to see how they responded to global destabilization. Dr. Watkins and the baker at The Forge, a favorite lo Suzanne Berne’s The Dogs of Littlefield is an amusing, but ultimately melancholy book about a town of privileged people, so privileged the town is on the Wall Street Journal’s list of “Twenty Best Places to Live in America.” It is a town so privileged that Dr. Clarice Watkins, a tenured sociologist from Chicago decides to spend time there as a visiting scholar while studying the townspeople to see how they responded to global destabilization. Dr. Watkins and the baker at The Forge, a favorite local eatery, are the two people of color in this book. Watkins, an African American who wears caftans and turbans and Ahmed, a Pakistani student, reveal the casual and ignorant racism of the people in town. One woman, inviting Dr. Watkins to a potluck, mentions how much she loves tribal cooking. Everyone assumes as a black woman from Chicago, she must know the Obamas. Ahmed is harassed constantly by the police, so much so he buys an electric razor to shave off his beard and is arrested on suspicion of shoplifting when he tries to return it. Dr. Watkins is able to observe the people of Littlefield keenly without resistance because they are so self-absorbed they never asked her why she was there. The town is full of these self-obsessed comfortable people who from the outside would seem to have no problems. But of course, they have problems. Margaret, the center of the novel, is in a dying marriage and is engulfed in fears. Her husband is feeling allergic to his wife and her daughter is at that angst-ridden age when parents are both refuge and agents of humiliation and embarrassment. There’s a local author named George whose wife has run off, in love with her massage therapist. A couple of local therapists, married with children, whose children seem to mark them as failures in parenting. To add to the mix, the town is divided by controversy over a local park and whether there should be off-leash hours for dogs. Dog-lovers and dog-haters are terribly worked up. One dog-hater hilariously argued for more restrictions on dogs since they don’t even pay taxes. Adding to the unease, someone begins poisoning the dogs of Littlefield. Suspicion is in the air and the town is restive. There is a bit of a mystery. I enjoyed Berne’s wit, often very mordant and sly. This book made me smile more than once. I also loved the lush, emotionally evocative prose descriptions of the landscape, the skies, and the snow. The sense of place was solid and easy to visualize. I also enjoyed the characterizations of the people, some of the summed up with Austen-like wit and brevity. However, the novel was uneven and the plot was sparse. The mystery element is a complete red-herring and really nothing to do with the story at all. The lurking menace of the back cover copy was not a mystery, nor was it a menace. It was just a mess. The normal mess of life. The rest of my review is on my blog at https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpre...

  25. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    This novel is set in Littlefield, listed as the sixth best place to live in America. This is very much middle class, affluent suburbia – a place populated by well educated professionals, but, nevertheless, not without problems. Indeed, when Dr Clarice Watkins arrives, it is with the intention of studying the people of Littlefield, because of their perceived excellent quality of life. A socio-cultural anthropologist, Clarice has abandoned the desolate, the poverty stricken and the traumatised, an This novel is set in Littlefield, listed as the sixth best place to live in America. This is very much middle class, affluent suburbia – a place populated by well educated professionals, but, nevertheless, not without problems. Indeed, when Dr Clarice Watkins arrives, it is with the intention of studying the people of Littlefield, because of their perceived excellent quality of life. A socio-cultural anthropologist, Clarice has abandoned the desolate, the poverty stricken and the traumatised, and decided to turn her professional eye to those who really should not only be coping with what life throws at them, but experiencing contentment. Much of this book revolves around a couple; Margaret and Bill Downing and their only daughter, Julia. When we first meet Margaret she comes across a poisoned dog in the park, belonging to author George Wechsler. George has recently separated from his wife, while Margaret and Bill are having marital problems. Not only do many therapists live in Littlefield, but many of the town’s inhabitants turn to them for advice. However, it does not seem to be helping the Downing’s too much – Bill is depressed, Julia is bullied and lacks confidence, while Margaret feels as though she is teetering on the edge of a cliff. Littlefield is experiencing another issue, which Clarice did not anticipate. Dog owners had proposed that a local park become a ‘leash free’ zone and it’s use is now hotly contested by different factions. At first there are anti-dog signs and then dogs begin to be poisoned. Fear and suspicion erupts in the community and Clarice is there, documenting how people react to events. We follow the inhabitants of Littlefield over time – through their affairs, marital difficulties, problems with their children, their neighbours and themselves. As always, people find problems in any situation, whether they are successful or not and this is an interesting dissection of a community, with all its faults and triumphs.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mystica

    Littlefield is considered one of the top places to live in America. The statistics are a bit puzzling though. Apart from the restaurants and pizza parlours, the nail spas and the salons, we have a huge huge proportion of people who are psychologists and psychotherapists. Is this indicative of something hidden? The stories that go behind the lives of seemingly middle class fellow citizens -the average Jo are always detailed and anything but mundane. Everyone has a story and Littlefield has its fai Littlefield is considered one of the top places to live in America. The statistics are a bit puzzling though. Apart from the restaurants and pizza parlours, the nail spas and the salons, we have a huge huge proportion of people who are psychologists and psychotherapists. Is this indicative of something hidden? The stories that go behind the lives of seemingly middle class fellow citizens -the average Jo are always detailed and anything but mundane. Everyone has a story and Littlefield has its fair share. A spate of dog poisonings random and not targeting a particular segment of people indicates that everything is not quite right in Littlefield. An off leash debate for dogs is having its opponents and supporters in equal measure and it has become quite vociferous and seems to be dividing the town. The story is also a commentary on society and the characters that form this close community and is done with a touch of satire as well. Interesting reading on small town America.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Carla

    The Stepford Wives meets The Truman Show in Suzanne Berne's The Dogs of Littlefield. Originally published in 2013, The Dogs of Littlefield was long listed for the Baileys Women's prize for Fiction. Ms. Berne is an extremely talented writer (her earlier novel A Crime in the Neighborhood won the Orange Prize) with a flair for narration and character development, but The Dogs of Littlefield won't win her any prizes from animal lovers! When a proposal is made to convert a town park into an off leash The Stepford Wives meets The Truman Show in Suzanne Berne's The Dogs of Littlefield. Originally published in 2013, The Dogs of Littlefield was long listed for the Baileys Women's prize for Fiction. Ms. Berne is an extremely talented writer (her earlier novel A Crime in the Neighborhood won the Orange Prize) with a flair for narration and character development, but The Dogs of Littlefield won't win her any prizes from animal lovers! When a proposal is made to convert a town park into an off leash dog run, it creates deep divisions among the residents and exposes the cracks in their supposedly perfect lives. While the plot oozes satire and irony it is also cringe inducing, as opposition to the dog run takes a very nasty turn. With razor sharp precision Ms. Berne holds up a mirror to life in upper crust New England, but what is reflected there sadly proves that money really doesn't buy happiness.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    This book was just okay for me. The writing was good, but I found the story just a tad slow and I had a hard time really getting into it. I like stories that move along at a quicker pace. So I really think the problem was me and not the author. Thanks to Simon and Schuster for approving my request and to Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    enjoyable book looking at the residents of littlefield and the park for off the leash dogs and how relationships can be viewed by an outsider and some may view this book as a satire of the modern world

  30. 5 out of 5

    Penny

    Easy read, closely observed novel about a small town, lots of dogs that are mysteriously being killed off, various couples in various states of disintegrating relationships and plenty of humour along the way!

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