Plot: Absurdity, wit, and piercing skills of observation allow the 11 standalone, but tonally and thematically united short stories in this collection to shine.
Prose/Style: Musgrave's prose is smooth and easy to read, humorous, and cleverly written. In the case of the title story: after realizing the absurdity of the premise, the reader is quickly drawn in by the wry narrative and ultimately entertained by this slice of life tale told by one of Lady Gaga's dogs.
Originality: Musgrave's stories blend elements of satire with pathos, providing insights on fame, human behavior, and love relationships. It's a thought-provoking, fun, and ultimately impactful collection.
Character Development/Execution: The author's Kafkaesque storytelling will delight discerning readers. The influence of literary masters is apparent across the works in this collection, while the stories--from references to the gig economy to COVID--are also firmly and effectively planted in the current tumultuous moment.
Date Submitted: May 22, 2021
Reviewed By Astrid Iustulin for Readers’ Favorite
Valley of the Dogs is one of the most noteworthy collections of short stories I have ever read. This intriguing volume, written by James Musgrave, gathers eleven stories addressing the theme of "star power." They are very different in settings, times, and characters (one of them, the one that gives the book its title, is told by a dog), but their common purpose is to satirize what they present. Moreover, as stated in the introduction, Valley of the Dogs wants to be a "remedy" to the worldwide pandemic we all know so well.
Valley of the Dogs was, for me, a memorable journey. The themes are complex and therefore stimulating so that the book was a pleasure to read. The stories are very well written and reveal the author's keen eye for detail. James Musgrave is not one of those writers who contents himself merely to entertain the reader. On the contrary, my impression is that he wants us to meditate on the topics of the book, and for this reason, each story is perfectly chiseled. I confess that the elegance of Musgrave's prose enchanted me. Although I cannot linger on each story in my short review, I take advantage of these few lines to praise their balanced structure and the interesting characters they present (did I mention that one of them is Kafka?). I started reading Valley of the Dogs by chance, but it turned out to be one of my finest literary encounters. I hope to read more books by James Musgrave soon.