by Meg Rosoff (Penguin Books, 2011)
This book has such a fantastic concept that I couldn't resist picking it up. First, imagine that there is a God (if you're already a believer, bear with me). Now imagine that God isn't a bearded, wise blend of Gandalf and Santa, but a horny, arrogant, lazy and all-round typical teenage boy. If your reaction is 'OMG, Meg Rosoff is going to HELL. So is everyone who reads her filth, the blasphemous heathens!' then this isn't going to be the book for you. If your reaction is 'OMG, Meg Rosoff is clearly a genius, tell me more!' then read on!
On the surface of things, this is a novel about a boy called Bob. Bob is the God of Earth - and he's rubbish at it. He spends more time sleeping and fantasizing about naked women than he does caring about his creations. That job falls to his manager, Mr B, who has spent the last few millennia trying and failing to persuade Bob to accept some responsibility while he wades through paperwork and prayers from dawn until dusk. Meanwhile Bob's errant mother Mona has gambled away his pet Eck, Eck is contemplating death as he faces being cooked and served up with peppercorn sauce by his new owner, and Bob is falling madly in love with an assistant zookeeper called Lucy. His ardent desire for her could be the end of the world as we know it - but will he come to his senses in time to undo the chaos he has unleashed?
Although the book started off a bit slowly, by the end I was really glad I'd persevered. I think the lack of a really relatable and likeable leading character made things harder - every single character is deeply flawed and Bob, in particular, makes me feel glad I never had a teenage brother to put up with! At the same time, it is exactly this flawed cast of characters that makes their individual moments of brilliance, compassion and strength so compelling. I really liked Bernard, the local vicar, who reminded me a lot of Tom Hollander's Rev, with his generous heart but decidedly earthy personality. The long-suffering Eck was a delight too! I thought There Is No Dog did a great job of prompting reflection - not necessarily about religion, but about life, love, responsibility and the world - in a gentle way, whilst also poking fun at the earnest feelings and obsessive interests of teenage life. Cautiously recommended to older teens and upwards!
- "When Mr B manages to open his eyes once more, the expression on God's face makes his heart sink. It is twelve parts moony love, eighty-three parts sexual desire, and ten and a half million parts blind determination. Oh, please, Mr B thinks, not a human. Not another human."
- "Bob had created the world and then simply lost interest. Since his second week of employment, he'd passed the time sleeping and playing with his wangle, while managing to ignore the existence of his creations entirely."
- "Once upon a time it had been all burning bushes, plagues of frogs and partings of the seas, scaring the living daylights out of his creations by booming down in scary voices and handing stone tablets out of the sky. Now he was barely allowed to make a parking space become suddenly available."
- "The noise that emerged from Bob's mouth shattered every window in the room. Bob tore at his hair and rent the hem of his garment. He was God, the Almighty, the All-powerful Everlasting Father, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. With the Mother of all Mothers."
- "Perhaps the way to proceed is to think of life on Earth as a colossal joke, a creation of such immense stupidity that the only way to live is to laugh until you think your heart will break."
Source: I borrowed this book from my local library.