Robin's Reviews > The Power of the Dog

The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage
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it was amazing
bookshelves: 2019, american, literary-fiction
Recommended for: people who like good books

I wonder how extraordinary writers fade into obscurity. I pondered this the whole time I was reading this 1967 novel, and asked myself a few pertinent questions such as: Why isn't Thomas Savage a name that easily rolls off the tongue of many a book lover? Why isn't his name the answer to a Jeopardy question? Why isn't "Thomas-Savage-ian" an adjective?

Maybe it's because we decided that it was no longer fashionable to read slow burning, ruthless stories.

Nah, we said, forget about it. We're not into writers who are ahead of their time.

We don't need no western settings. Nor do we need to read the father of Brokeback Mountain. No sirree.

Psychological tension that just about strangles you with its looming dread and doom just doesn't do it for us anymore.

Satisfying endings are just so last-mid-century.

I'm disappointed in "us", in a people who could let Thomas Savage's works collect dust and dwindle from the collective consciousness. He carries with him the dream shattered soul of John Steinbeck, the quiet foreboding reminiscent of Wharton's Ethan Frome, and the elegance and simplicity of John Williams’ Stoner. This, his fifth novel, is a modern reworking of the biblical story of Cain and Abel, with darkness to spare. Life is mean and tough for his poor players, and each character is drawn with such understanding and depth, you can't help but feel compassion, even for the one who deserves it the least.

As you can tell, I loved this book. I probably haven't done it justice. Please read it. It's a Thomas-Savage-ian masterpiece.
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Reading Progress

August 6, 2017 – Shelved
March 29, 2019 – Started Reading
April 6, 2019 –
25.0%
April 6, 2019 –
37.0%
April 7, 2019 –
50.0%
April 7, 2019 –
63.0%
April 8, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 61 (61 new)


Julie You're reading this?? I'm so unnaturally excited!


Robin I am, in fact! Just started...


Julie Well, I do believe old Phil will be dark enough for you, my dear one.


message 4: by Joe (new) - added it

Joe Valdez I'm excited to see that you're reading a novel on my docket, Robin. This is like a favorite singer doing a gig in my town!


Robin Joe wrote: "I'm excited to see that you're reading a novel on my docket, Robin. This is like a favorite singer doing a gig in my town!"

Oh Joe, I'm so happy you're planning to read this. You have such a treat ahead of you!!


message 6: by Dianne (new) - added it

Dianne Holy crap - if you mention this in the same breath as John Steinbeck and John Williams, count me in! Adding it. Great review, Robin.


message 7: by Candi (new) - added it

Candi This book caught my attention not long ago, but your awesome review compels me to shortlist this one, Robin!


message 8: by Melanie (new) - added it

Melanie Your review is fantastic Robin! I've had this on my wish list for a while and now I want to read it soon!


message 9: by Renata (new) - added it

Renata You said it, ladies! Adding it to my ever-growing TBR list.


message 10: by Jaline (new) - added it

Jaline Excellent review, Robin! I have had this one on my wishlist for quite a long time, and I do look forward to reading it as soon as I can. I love the passion in your review for this great writer - so well done! :)


Julie It is a masterpiece. I'm not quite sure I'll ever forget this story. You've mentioned all of the right writers, by the way. . . Steinbeck, Wharton and Williams. I would like to add one more, though, and that would be Wallace Stegner. I couldn't help but think of his writing, multiple times, throughout this read.
It depresses me that this guy's work fell into obscurity. Is there any hope for the rest of us?


message 12: by Cynthia (new) - added it

Cynthia Hamilton Wow, how could I not want to read it after seeing a review like this! It's on my list now, Robin ~ thanks!


message 13: by Heidi (new)

Heidi Loved your review!!


message 14: by Michael (new) - added it

Michael Very persuasive, Robin! I'm always on the lookout for these woefully forgotten masterpieces. I will certainly check it out. Thanks for shining some well-deserved light on it!


message 15: by Bianca (last edited Apr 09, 2019 04:32PM) (new) - added it

Bianca Incredible review. You're asking great questions. I see I already had it on my TBR. I hope to find it.


message 16: by Agnieszka (new) - added it

Agnieszka Great review, Robin. I've heard already good things about the novel and I'm glad it has your approval either. Going to read that one for sure!


Robin Dianne wrote: "Holy crap - if you mention this in the same breath as John Steinbeck and John Williams, count me in! Adding it. Great review, Robin."

I'm so pleased you've got it on your list, Dianne! It's a hidden gem that I hope more people discover. I want to read his other books now too.


Robin Candi wrote: "This book caught my attention not long ago, but your awesome review compels me to shortlist this one, Robin!"

Weee! That makes me happy. Can't wait to discuss it with you when you get to it, Candi.


Laura Immediately put on my favorite shelf. I loved it.


message 20: by Fede (new)

Fede Come ooooon, don't be modest: you did it justice and I bet your review would drive Savage wild (HAHA!)


Betsy Robinson Terrific review, Robin, and a lot of us (me) had the same reaction upon discovering this book. Publishing and all culture is such a fickle thing--why something becomes popular, why or if it lasts. I've given up trying to understand that because it makes my hair follicles hurt.


message 22: by Scott (new) - added it

Scott Nvenue Your review was so compelling, I had to add it to my TBR.


Robin Melanie wrote: "Your review is fantastic Robin! I've had this on my wish list for a while and now I want to read it soon!"

Thanks Melanie - I'm glad you already knew about this book. It's worth your time. I wonder if the rest of his work is this impressive.


Robin Renata wrote: "You said it, ladies! Adding it to my ever-growing TBR list."

Terrific, Renata. Hope you love it!


Robin Jaline wrote: "Excellent review, Robin! I have had this one on my wishlist for quite a long time, and I do look forward to reading it as soon as I can. I love the passion in your review for this great writer - so well done! :)"

Thank you, my dear Jaline! It seems this book isn't entirely unknown, with several of friends like you with it waiting patiently on TBRs. That is great. Have you read anything else by this author?


Robin Julie wrote: "It is a masterpiece. I'm not quite sure I'll ever forget this story. You've mentioned all of the right writers, by the way. . . Steinbeck, Wharton and Williams. I would like to add one more, though, and that would be Wallace Stegner. I couldn't help but think of his writing, multiple times, throughout this read.
It depresses me that this guy's work fell into obscurity. Is there any hope for the rest of us?"


There's something iconic about this story - George and Phil remind me a little of a more famous pair, George and Lenny. Completely different characters but a similar resonance, if you know what I mean.

I have to admit I've never read Wallace Stegner. Are you a big fan of his?


message 27: by Antoinette (new) - added it

Antoinette Very powerful review, Robin. It’s interesting how some writers fall into obscurity and others don’t. It sounds like Thomas Savage should become a household name or at least a Goodreads one.


Julie Good point. George and Phil are definitely opposing forces, similar to George and Lenny, but give me Lenny over Phil any day! Ack!

There are writers I prefer over Wallace Stegner (most particularly Kent Haruf), but I do believe he was a master writer and he writes of the American West, so, naturally, I like him.


Robin Cynthia wrote: "Wow, how could I not want to read it after seeing a review like this! It's on my list now, Robin ~ thanks!"

Thank you, Cynthia, for reading my review! Enjoy.


Robin Heidi wrote: "Loved your review!!"

Thanks so much, Heidi, appreciate it!


message 31: by Tammy (new) - added it

Tammy I’m convinced, Robin!


Robin Michael wrote: "Very persuasive, Robin! I'm always on the lookout for these woefully forgotten masterpieces. I will certainly check it out. Thanks for shining some well-deserved light on it!"

Thanks, Michael. It's such a delight to stumble on these gems, but it's bittersweet because it's such a shame that they were forgotten in the first place.


Robin Bianca wrote: "Incredible review. You're asking great questions. I see I already had it on my TBR. I hope to find it."

It's a slow-burner, Bianca. Sinister and human at the same time. I hope you love it.


Carmel Hanes Wow, Robin...fantastic review. Convinced me to take a look at it.


Robin Agnieszka wrote: "Great review, Robin. I've heard already good things about the novel and I'm glad it has your approval either. Going to read that one for sure!"

Thanks, Agnieszka. I'm glad the book has some buzz - I can't wait to see other reviews pop up, including yours, of course!


Robin Laura wrote: "Immediately put on my favorite shelf. I loved it."

Laura, I just read your great, give-nothing-away review. Like you, I loved it from the get go.


Robin Fede wrote: "Come ooooon, don't be modest: you did it justice and I bet your review would drive Savage wild (HAHA!)"

hahahaha. Thanks my dear. What a name! I love it. I don't know what kind of guy Thomas Savage was, but his name definitely suits his writing.


Robin Betsy wrote: "Terrific review, Robin, and a lot of us (me) had the same reaction upon discovering this book. Publishing and all culture is such a fickle thing--why something becomes popular, why or if it lasts. I've given up trying to understand that because it makes my hair follicles hurt."

You're right, of course, Betsy. It's pretty heartbreaking and illogical in many cases. It's best not to try to figure it out - a depressing pastime at best.

Last year I read a great novella Mrs. Caliban which got lots of critical attention when it was written in 1982, but then went out of print. It was re-issued in 2017, and it's freaking fabulous! A shame it was "lost" for so many years, and why??


message 39: by Katie (new)

Katie Fabulously seductive and impassioned review, Robin.


Robin Scott wrote: "Your review was so compelling, I had to add it to my TBR."

Scott, that makes me happy. Hopefully you enjoy this as much as I did.


Robin Antoinette wrote: "Very powerful review, Robin. It’s interesting how some writers fall into obscurity and others don’t. It sounds like Thomas Savage should become a household name or at least a Goodreads one."

Antoinette, it puzzles me why this happens. It brings to mind a book I read last year, The Murder of My Aunt by Richard Hull. I was simply delighted by his novel and am similarly perplexed as to why he isn't more well known, and listed among all the other golden age mystery writers. Thank goodness for Goodreads. I wouldn't have known about Richard Hull or Thomas Savage if it weren't for my fabulously well read friends here.


Robin Julie wrote: "Good point. George and Phil are definitely opposing forces, similar to George and Lenny, but give me Lenny over Phil any day! Ack!

There are writers I prefer over Wallace Stegner (most particularly Kent Haruf), but I do believe he was a master writer and he writes of the American West, so, naturally, I like him."


Phil is a bad guy, don't get me wrong, but Savage wrote him so completely that I understood his twisted way of living, and I felt sympathy for him. Isolation and self loathing manifests in ugly ways.

One of these days I'll have to read Wallace Stegner. I've enjoyed reading tales set in the American West a lot more than I would ever have predicted.


Robin Tammy wrote: "I’m convinced, Robin!"

Yay! Glad to hear it, Tammy :D


Robin Carmel wrote: "Wow, Robin...fantastic review. Convinced me to take a look at it."

Thanks so much, Carmel. I hope it lives up to (my) hype. Look forward to reading your take on it.


Robin Katie wrote: "Fabulously seductive and impassioned review, Robin."

Thank you, my dear! I'm still in the shadow of this story, days later. That doesn't happen that often.


message 46: by Tony (new)

Tony Hanging my head in shame that I missed the Jeopardy answer. But I do so love the conversational style of your reviews, Robin.


Robin Tony wrote: "Hanging my head in shame that I missed the Jeopardy answer. But I do so love the conversational style of your reviews, Robin."

I almost missed it too! We all almost missed it, Tony. It's one of the great tragedies of our time.

Thanks so much for the kind words, by the way. I admire your astute reviews too.


message 48: by Julie (new)

Julie I read this review about a week ago, Robin, ... just after you posted it ... and I keep coming back to it, and coming back. I don't know why, other than that you've made a compelling case and now I. Must. Read. Thanks.


Robin Julie wrote: "I read this review about a week ago, Robin, ... just after you posted it ... and I keep coming back to it, and coming back. I don't know why, other than that you've made a compelling case and now I. Must. Read. Thanks."

Julie, this is a tremendous compliment! Thrilled you will be reading it, and I'm nervously awaiting your review.


Carol Eloquent review of one of my all time favorite western novels. I read this years ago and found it once again lately for a re-read.


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