Back in July, it was a real pleasure to join the blog tour for The Dog-walking Club by Liz Hinds, available for kindle (and free via Kindle Unlimited) and paperback from Amazon in the UK and US: you can catch up with Liz’s lovely guest post again here.
I don’t always get the chance to catch up with every book I feature – however much I’d like to – but this was one that I really did want to make room for. I very much liked the look of the author (and she’s one of the authors I’m rather looking forward to meeting when I visit Narberth Book Fair this year), and the whole premise of the book made me sure it was one I’d really enjoy. And I’m pleased to say I was absolutely right! The e-copy I read was my own, purchased from Amazon.
Every dog walk brings new drama into the lives of these dogs and their people. A supermarket shelf-stacker, a stay-at-home dad, an elderly widow and a freelance photographer sound an unlikely bunch of friends but they have one thing in common: they all walk their dogs in Beauville Park at roughly the same time each morning.
And that’s enough for Angela, bored organiser without a cause, to get them together to form the Dog-walking Club. For Jock the Scottie, Benji the spaniel, Pixie the boxer, Mitzi the poodle and Bassett the … all sorts, walking each day with their friends is a dream come true. And it changes the lives of widowed Sybil who’s spent a lifetime hiding her secret sorrow, hopeless-with-women Jon who’s wandering almost unwittingly into an affair, freelance photographer Jemma who is at every wedding but her own, and Maggi who is frantically trying to save money to visit her family in Australia.
And for long-suffering Angela a nasty shock turns into a new start in disguise for her and her husband – and their love life.
I will start by saying that I don’t have a particular “thing” about dogs – give me a cat any day! – but I found so much to love in this book. It’s one of those wonderful ensemble pieces that I always so much enjoy – a diverse group of people brought together by their common interest, their individual lives and stories, a testament to the power of friendship, and it really warms the cockles of your heart.
The characterisation is quite excellent – every individual is absolutely real, and every one of them became a friend that I cheered on as they faced their personal challenges and the changes in their lives. And that wonderful characterisation applies to the dogs too – every one a real character, from Jock the elderly Scottie to the wonderfully exuberant Bassett (yes, I did have a particular soft spot for him – and for his owner Maggi).
There’s a great diversity in the characters, and their interactions are an absolute joy. Angela begins as the bossy organiser (with her superior poodle Mitzi) but life’s blows change her character and her life entirely – her story was enchanting, and brought some lovely surprises.
Maggi works all the hours possible as a shelf stacker in the hope of being able to visit her grandchildren on the other side of the world, stay-at-home dad Jon finds temptation at the school gates, Jemma’s photography skills bring her a new outlet (and an unexpected relationship).
And then there’s Sybil, living her lonely life in her sheltered housing flat overlooking the park, living on her memories and finding a new purpose in life (and rather more – I particularly enjoyed her story line).
The dialogue is so well done, and the writing has a lovely ease and lightness – and that makes the reading such a pleasure too. The humour is gentle and perfectly judged, and I don’t think I was without a smile on my face at any stage – although I’ll admit there were a few points when I did find I became quite tearful (but never for very long).
I was totally embroiled in the lives of these people (and their dogs) while thoroughly enjoying their company, and the whole reading experience was like spending time with friends. I’d really love to meet my friends from the dog-walking club again at some point in the future, to see how their lives have moved on – very much recommended by me.
About the author
I’m a golden-retriever-loving granny, who enjoys walking by the sea or in the woods, who eats too much chocolate and gets over-excited when the Welsh team plays rugby.
Writing-wise, I am an experienced freelance writer – published in The Guardian, Christian Herald and various other magazines and newspapers – with an MA in Creative Writing (Trinity College, University of Wales). My short stories have been published in Cambrensis (the now sadly-defunct short story magazine of Wales) as well as in several anthologies including Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe (Parthian) and Catwomen from Hell (Honno). I am also the author of several non-fiction books published by Hodder & Stoughton, Scripture Union and Kevin Mayhew.
I have self-published two novels, This Time Last Year, and The Dog-walking Club.
I enjoy speaking about my writing to various gatherings and the media, and am an active blogger, facebooker and tweeter.