Favourites: Sharp Teeth

Better late than never – here’s the second to last favourite books post!

FAVOURITES

TOBY BARLOW: SHARP TEETH

 

Published: 2008 Harper Collins

Pages: 313

An ancient race of lycanthropes survives in modern L.A., and its numbers are growing as the pack converts the city’s downtrodden into their fold. Stuck in the middle are a local dog-catcher and the woman he loves, whose secret past haunts her as she fights a bloody one-woman battle to save their relationship.

It was getting close to Christmas of 2008 when I saw this book in the “new releases” shelf at the bookstore. It looked fascinating: the cover, the title, the blurb at the back, all good. I’m a bit of a sucker for werewolves, and leafing the book and reading bits from the beginning convinced me to put it on my Christmas list. Santa was kind enough to bring it, and so I read it over the New Years.

So what is Sharp Teeth about, exactly? You can see some of it in the blurb, although I don’t think it does the book much justice. It exaggerates the love story. It’s there all right, and it’s a quite a central bit, but it’s not just a love story. There’s also more than one pack, which adds tension.

Oh yeah, and I guess the blurb leaves out the fact that it’s written in beautiful blank verse.

Yup. It’s nothing to be scared of – I speculate that that’s why it’s been left off the cover altogether – quite the opposite! It adds much to the action, to the general flow. It’s dynamic and intense. Sometimes it’s so pretty I have to put the book down for a while to muse over a nice turn of phrase.

Bone, love, meat, gristle, heat, anger, exhaustion, drive, hunger, blood, fat, marrow

 

Fifteen men lying in one house.

Listen to the night as

they softly growl

someone chases something in his dreams

desperate for satisfaction

then silent.

There’s one woman here.

There’s one leader here.

The pack does what he says,

she comes and goes

as she pleases.

There are lots of different kind of elements in the book. Love is a big one – the dog-catcher and Her above all, although other couples are seen as well – but between the lines there’s coincidence, or, more like, the explanations we tend to form for things that happen completely by accident. The main observer of these coincidences is Detective Peabody, who gets more in the middle of the whole business than the lovers mentioned in the blurb do. And then there’s revenge, on several levels.

For this post, I read the book for the fourth time. I now noticed how enticed I’ve always been by Barlow’s style: this is the first time that I actually managed to piece together the details that make up the connections between events. Let me tell you, it’s like magic. I think this book needs to be read a couple of times at least, unless you’ve got a good head for small, off-hand details. I’m not sure it’s even possible to link the details the first time around because you don’t know where it is all going. On subsequent readings the details become more significant, and the puzzle starts to form a picture.

It’s got some very heart-wrenching sections. Amusing sections. Sections filled with intense action.

There has lately been talk of a movie. Simon Beaufoy is working on the script, and Danny Boyle (they’ve worked together before, in Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours) has expressed keen interest. I’m a little scared, naturally. I’m afraid they’ll make the movie pounce and attack, when I want it to prowl, to stalk. And I have this irrational fear that they’ll cast Michael Fassbender… (Before anyone asks, I have nothing against him per se. He’s a good actor. It’s just that he’s sodding everywhere! And he doesn’t fit the part of anyone in the book. As I said, it is a completely ridiculous fear, but there you go.)

There is also a new book coming from the author, apparently due to be released next year! It’ll be called Babayaga: A Novel, and I hear it’s about Russian witches in 1950s Paris. (If you do a search on Babayaga, you’ll find she is indeed a witch from Russian fairy tales.) Looking forward to it!

Let’s sing about the man there

at the breakfast table

his olive hand making endless circles

in the classifieds

‘wanted’ ‘wanted’ ‘wanted’

small jobs little money

but you have to start somewhere.

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