Here is the last of my recent library stumble-upons, but it was no unknown treasure that I found, simply a book I’ve been curious about ever since finding out that the author of I Capture the Castle had also written a book adapted by Disney and his team of animators.
The author would be Dodie Smith (in my library copy, penciled in as “Smith, Dorothy Gladys”), and the book I found would be The Hundred and One Dalmatians.
You don’t have to love dogs to enjoy this book, but I imagine it would help. It’s written from the viewpoint of the dogs: the humans are their pets, whom they attach to leashes and take for walks. Yes, you read me right: the dogs are walking the humans. The dogs can understand human speech perfectly, unlike their poor pets who can’t seem to decipher the perfectly clear messages the dogs are sending them. Many of the dogs we run across in this novel can even read the newspapers.
The Dearlys own the first two dalmations, Pongo and Misses Pongo (Perdita, who joins them later, is another full-grown dalmatian who’s lost her own litter of pups). Cruella de Vil (only the dogs notice the devilish clue in her last name) and her henchmen Jasper and Saul Baddun steal the dalmatian pups in the heat of night. The twilight bark sends news all across southeastern England. Rescue ensues, followed by pursuit, and then of course the happy ending. For those keeping count, the identity of the “hundred and oneth” dalmatian remains a mystery up to the last pages.
Smith includes a fur demolition scene that I don’t remember from the film — marking a rare instance where I actually prefer Disney’s revision. Disney also simplified the cast, and, if my memory hasn’t completely failed me, intensified the chase scene. But in essentials, Disney’s movie closely follows Smith’s plot, down to disguising the dogs in coal and Lucky’s horseshoe pattern of dots.
This was a quick read — just a few hours — but satisfying. Smith’s humor and quiet messages (including one on the evils of television) perfectly season this story of parents who risk everything to save their children.
By a strange coincidence, when I found Parson Austen’s daughter at the Library last week I also spotted (no pun intended…) a Dodie Smith I had never read, despite being a follower of her adult novels, as was Joan, for many years. ‘The Girl in the Candlelit Bath’ is a quirky semi thriller, with all Smith’s charm and penchant for highly dramatic personae, set in70’s London. If you stumble on this on your next library visit you’d probably enjoy!
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Thanks for the suggestion, Lizza. I’ll look for this one, as well as others of Smith’s books.