Here is the fifth and final, albeit late, entry on the Caine Prize for African Literature. Today I’m reviewing “The Mistress’s Dog” by David Medalie, which can be downloaded here. Next week the winner of the prize will be announced, so it will be interesting to see where the prize goes. To see all of the co-blogging phenomena scroll on down for a list.
A quick glance at the co-blogging list shows that Medalie’s story, a concise story about a woman named Nola and the dog which she cares for, is a clear favorite. A number of reviewers have named it their choice for the prize, and I won’t begrudge them. But I’m not sure where I’m at. Perhaps I’m lacking the literary mind that my colleagues have. Don’t get me wrong, I thought the story was good. But it’s not a clear favorite for me so much as it is on par with Keegan (although they are very different).
The important parts of the story have all happened before it begins. The story itself takes place over only two days, chronicling the life of Nola through her eyes. She has outlived both her husband and his mistress, left with the mistress’s dying dog. No one has a name in her eyes, the dog’s former owner falters between her profession (the secretary) and her romance (the mistress) throughout, and Nola’s own husband is only referred to as “the powerful man.” That is all he is and ever was to Nola, it seems.
Nola’s background is one of subtle revenge. She describes the simple victories she had in belittling the mistress, from referring to her by calling her names to arranging dinner parties so that she sticks out like a sore thumb. She seems to have reveled in her small victories, but her best victory – the chance to leave the dog in Johannesburg – was turned down. She decides to keep the dog and in the end the dog becomes her only companion. It really tells the story of how Nola is trapped by her life’s past – haunted by a dog she never wanted, left over from a life with a powerful husband and his affair.
I thought the story was quite good, but I’m not quite sure which story is my favorite. I definitely came at this blog-a-thon with a foreign eye, never really being quite the literary critic. This story’s point was concise and the solitary main character was rounded by her view of others. I’m looking forward to seeing who wins the Caine Prize next week.
For the co-blogging:
I’m curious who will win as well. I think people generally preferred this story because it was more subtle than the others (or maybe because it’s just plain different from the rest!)