The Dog Who Dared to Dream by Sun-mi Hwang, tr. from the Korean by Chi-Young Kim
Published by Abacus, 2016
My rating: ⭐ ⭐
I can see why lots of people love this, as it’s easy to sympathise with a scrappy runt determined to overcome the odds, but it’s presented in a style that I struggled to click with, unfortunately. The setup alone threatens to be twee, but I also found it too relentless in its sorrow for Scraggly’s suffering to really hit home. This emotionally manipulative approach coupled with the animal characters being personified a little too much stopped me from being able to submit myself to the narrative. After all, within this kind of context, I can deal with fictional animals being able to narrate their inner thoughts and feelings, but full-blown inter-species conversations and dogs “bursting into tears” requires greater suspension of disbelief than I can muster.
The book also purports to explore the friendship between man and dog, but without giving away any spoilers, I thought the dynamic between Scraggly and her owner was too fraught and slight to make this claim, or for the ending to feel earned.
There are certainly some poignant moments throughout this that were loaded with thematic potential, but sadly it failed to resonate in the way I hoped. This is especially frustrating considering how much I’m usually impacted by the very niche subgenre of ‘emotional animal stories’. Ultimately, I felt this particular offering was too repetitive, and so laboured in its desire to make a Point that it ironically failed to make one of any real significance.
You can pick up a copy of The Dog Who Dared to Dream by clicking here.