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The Dog Star, Sirius, is tried for murder by his heavenly peers and found guilty. His sentence: to be reborn on Earth as a dog until such time as he carries out the seemingly impossible mission imposed on him.

In his Earth guise, Sirius, renamed Leo, truly lives a dog's life. Although he is the pet of a girl who loves him, both child and dog are mistreated by the family with whom they live. But the worldly obstacles Leo faces are minor when compared with his chilling encounters with the Dark Powers that are set against him. His quest seems hopeless until at last Sol, Moon, and Earth itself come to his aid.

Dogsbody is a tense, exciting, sciencefiction fantasy, a thriller, and a touching dog story all in one.

272 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1975

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About the author

Diana Wynne Jones

164 books10.1k followers
Diana was born in London, the daughter of Marjorie (née Jackson) and Richard Aneurin Jones, both of whom were teachers. When war was announced, shortly after her fifth birthday, she was evacuated to Wales, and thereafter moved several times, including periods in Coniston Water, in York, and back in London. In 1943 her family finally settled in Thaxted, Essex, where her parents worked running an educational conference centre. There, Jones and her two younger sisters Isobel (later Professor Isobel Armstrong, the literary critic) and Ursula (later an actress and a children's writer) spent a childhood left chiefly to their own devices. After attending the Friends School Saffron Walden, she studied English at St Anne's College in Oxford, where she attended lectures by both C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien before graduating in 1956. In the same year she married John Burrow, a scholar of medieval literature, with whom she had three sons, Richard, Michael and Colin. After a brief period in London, in 1957 the couple returned to Oxford, where they stayed until moving to Bristol in 1976.

According to her autobiography, Jones decided she was an atheist when she was a child.

Jones started writing during the mid-1960s "mostly to keep my sanity", when the youngest of her three children was about two years old and the family lived in a house owned by an Oxford college. Beside the children, she felt harried by the crises of adults in the household: a sick husband, a mother-in-law, a sister, and a friend with daughter. Her first book was a novel for adults published by Macmillan in 1970, entitled Changeover. It originated as the British Empire was divesting colonies; she recalled in 2004 that it had "seemed like every month, we would hear that yet another small island or tiny country had been granted independence."Changeover is set in a fictional African colony during transition, and begins as a memo about the problem of how to "mark changeover" ceremonially is misunderstood to be about the threat of a terrorist named Mark Changeover. It is a farce with a large cast of characters, featuring government, police, and army bureaucracies; sex, politics, and news. In 1965, when Rhodesia declared independence unilaterally (one of the last colonies and not tiny), "I felt as if the book were coming true as I wrote it."

Jones' books range from amusing slapstick situations to sharp social observation (Changeover is both), to witty parody of literary forms. Foremost amongst the latter are The Tough Guide To Fantasyland, and its fictional companion-pieces Dark Lord of Derkholm (1998) and Year of the Griffin (2000), which provide a merciless (though not unaffectionate) critique of formulaic sword-and-sorcery epics.

The Harry Potter books are frequently compared to the works of Diana Wynne Jones. Many of her earlier children's books were out of print in recent years, but have now been re-issued for the young audience whose interest in fantasy and reading was spurred by Harry Potter.

Jones' works are also compared to those of Robin McKinley and Neil Gaiman. She was friends with both McKinley and Gaiman, and Jones and Gaiman are fans of each other's work; she dedicated her 1993 novel Hexwood to him after something he said in conversation inspired a key part of the plot. Gaiman had already dedicated his 1991 four-part comic book mini-series The Books of Magic to "four witches", of whom Jones was one.

For Charmed Life, the first Chrestomanci novel, Jones won the 1978 Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, a once-in-a-lifetime award by The Guardian newspaper that is judged by a panel of children's writers. Three times she was a commended runner-up[a] for the Carnegie Medal from the Library Association, recognising the year's best children's book: for Dogsbody (1975), Charmed Life (1977), and the fourth Chrestomanci book The Lives of Christopher Chant (1988). She won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, children's section, in 1996 for The Crown of Dalemark.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 639 reviews
Profile Image for Joel.
553 reviews1,600 followers
April 7, 2011
The librarians of my childhood failed me. I'm sorry, there isn't a nice way to say it. They let me check out armloads of Goosebumps books week after week, when just a few shelves away, there were a dozen magical, wonderful books by Diana Wynne Jones just aching to be discovered and devoured by a dork like me, who would clearly have loved them. At least I was lucky enough to randomly stumble across Daniel Pinkwater on my own.

Of course, I can't judge the librarians too harshly. The late '80s were a different time -- J.K. Rowling had yet to light up the dollar signs in publisher's eyes, and fantasy books by authors like DWJ went in and out of print haphazardly. In fact it is because of Harry Potter that I found her at all -- fueled by children's wizard lust, many unheralded '80s fantasy books came back into print in the late '90s so bookstores could offer alternate reading selections (no, really, there is a very interesting blog post about it from a buyer at Barnes & Noble here).

I can still resent them though! I have said this before when reviewing DWJ, but many of her books, while perfectly enjoyable for adults, are clearly meant to appeal the weirdly absorbent brains of children, who do not try to cram in a few pages of reading during their lunch breaks while letting their minds wander to unpaid bills and unfinished assignments. Kids, real readers at least, hyper-focus -- they read like the rest of the world has ceased to exist. This is much, much harder to do as an adult, and does a disservice to DWJ, who focuses on character over detailed plotting and relies on her readers to fill in the gaps. Invariably, I finish one of her books scratching my head a bit, but feeling like it isn't the book, it's me. Does this make any sense, or am I idealizing youthful reading again? I don't think I am; it so explains why the epic books of my youth seem so small in the harsh light of adulthood.

Dogsbody! This book is hard to find these days, and has been out of print for at least 10 years. I can kind of see why. For one thing, the story is very strange, which makes it hard to classify, which makes it hard to sell, probably -- you see, there are these supernatural beings who live in/control the stars and planets. One of them, the Dog Star Sirius, is accused of a crime and sentenced to live out his punishment in the earthbound body of a dog. He has a chance at redemption, but if he doesn't complete his mission in time, he'll die when his dog body dies. There are a few other luminaries of dark purpose who wouldn't mind seeing that happen. Just a warning: there is a puppy drowning scene.

Right? You can see why this one is more of a hard sell post-Potter than "Oh yeah, Chrestomanci, these books also have a Wizard School." Also, there are elements that read strangely today, to children in the U.S. at least -- Sirius, in dog form, is taken care of by a sweet little girl named Kathy. Kathy has to live with her clueless uncle and his horrid wife because her father, a member of the IRA, is in jail. Kathy's Aunt Duffie and cousin treat her like dirt and she is constantly picked on by neighborhood kids... because she's Irish. I honestly have no idea how much of this still goes on in the U.K., but if I am any indication, American schoolchildren are taught next to nothing about Ireland's tortured political history, nor would many of them think to bother hating on a classmate for being Irish (I mean, as long as you're white, right?).

Then there's the fact that few publishers have managed to produce cover art that isn't off-putting or unspeakably childish or obtuse. Which, I mean... yeah. It's a high bar.

But it's a wonderful book. The creativity of the premise extends throughout, and I loved the scenes in which Sirius, in dog form, carries on snarky conversations with the sun, who gets no respect from the other luminaries, and the Earth, which is decidedly miffed about all these stars getting up in its business. There's the gentle sadness in Kathy's story, and lonely kids (which is most kids at one time or another) will find real truth in her struggles. Most of all, this is a book about animals that can talk to one another, but it is never cutesy. Sirius has to work to overcome his innate dog nature, which is (let's face it), dumbness and excitability (I love any scene where he talks to another dog, because all they want to do is keep saying "HI!"). If you are correct in your preference for cats, this book also has excellent and dignified cats. Anyone who realizes that cats aren't the villains gets a gold star.

Diana Wynne Jones died last week. Even though I came to her books late in life, it was a very sad author death for me. It also made me stop and really consider the ending of this book, which reminds us that present pain need not be permanent, you'll find friends and family where you make them, and it's always worth holding on to hope.
Profile Image for Karl.
3,258 reviews257 followers
October 6, 2020
“Dogsbody” by Diana Wynne Jones, In this universe, every celestial body is inhabited by an intelligent entity; in the case of stars, they're called luminaries. A luminary is not a solemn, grand tutelary angel, a luminary isn't just another mortal entity,. Luminaries have as much variation of personality as humans do, and in the case of stars, the star is merely the sphere that the luminary inhabits and is responsible for, not its physical body.

Sirius is notorious for his fiery temper; when he's accused of killing another luminary in a fit of rage for hanging around Sirius' Companion, he contaminates his own defense by losing his temper yet again, and as the story opens, a tribunal of other major luminaries is passing sentence on him.

As Sirius is the viewpoint character . we're given the impression that his wrath is that of outraged innocence, but at first, we only learn that he's withholding facts that would make things look worse, and that the Judges are hoping to get a fuller story out of him. He's found guilty on 3 charges: murder; misusing a Zoi to commit the murder; and negligence (the Zoi was lost, thrown away to fall somewhere on Earth). But in view of his former high standing (and on grounds of temporary insanity), he's given a special suspended sentence of death: to be bound into a mortal body on Earth, where he must retrieve the Zoi to be reinstated. We're given details about exactly what a Zoi is much later in the story: it's a very dangerous, sophisticated tool.

When next Sirius wakes up, he's in the body of a newborn puppy in England. Sirius is still himself, but he can't think properly until the puppy's body is more mature, so his viewpoint becomes that of an unusually bright dog for quite awhile.) He and his siblings are mutts born of a purebred, valuable dog; shortly after Sirius' arrival, the puppies are thrown into the river to drown. Each is rescued and comes to live with a different person, meeting again only when they're half grown. Sirius' savior is Kathleen, a young Irish girl sent to live with distant English relatives while her father serves a prison sentence for terrorist activities. The Duffields They provide for Kathleen and don't physically abuse her, but Duffie the mother, pours out continual verbal abuse on the laziness of the Irish while simultaneously loading most of the housework on Kathleen holding her to a promise she made in exchange for keeping 'Leo', her new puppy - named for his fiery green eyes. Kathleen's too young and inexperienced to do everything well - and Duffie heaps more scorn on her rather than teaching her properly. The father is an anything-for-a-quiet-life type; he won't stand up to his wife but isn't unsympathetic. The older boy is picking up his mother's bigotry,
Profile Image for Melissa McShane.
Author 58 books738 followers
October 29, 2018
I didn't find out what a "dogsbody" was (a drudge or menial worker, in case you didn't know either) until years after I'd read this book, so the double meaning passed me by--Sirius being in the body of a dog/Sirius losing his position of power to become a humble and powerless creature. Fortunately, it doesn't matter at all. This is a delightful story on so many levels.

Since Sirius the luminary star-denizen doesn't have any more idea about Earth life or humans than Sirius the abandoned puppy does, everything he learns is filtered through the dog's perceptions. This is something DWJ is amazing at, being able to look at some ordinary thing like a telephone cord and describe it the way someone would who'd not only never seen a telephone cord before, but didn't even understand the concept of telephones. (It just occurred to me that kids today might not know what a telephone cord is either. Now I feel old.) I love working out what Sirius is seeing. I also like the path Sirius takes from being an arrogant, powerful being with anger management issues to becoming someone who cares about others and puts their needs first. It could all be down to how very helpless he is, even when he's a full-grown dog, but I figure someone truly irredeemable wouldn't have changed no matter how helpless he became.

The characterization is just superb, as usual, and once again DWJ gives us a dysfunctional family that is maybe too realistic for comfort. Kathleen is the poor relation who's in the same situation Sirius is, dependent on a family in which the adults are unreliable. Basil's the oldest son, kind of a jerk because he's bigger and a bully; Robin's the middle child, too weak to stand up to Basil even though he likes Kathleen. Mr. Duffield, Kathleen's uncle, is the distant father who doesn't notice anything that isn't important to him. And Duffy, his wife, is a nasty shrew whose laziness and viciousness is most obvious when she blackmails Kathleen into doing all the cooking and household chores to keep Sirius (Leo, as Kathleen names him) from being thrown out or killed. I don't know how old Kathleen is, but she can't be older than 11, and the thought of a healthy grown woman standing by while a child struggles with responsibilities she's not ready for makes me sick. One of the things I love most about this book is when Miss Smith, a kind and intelligent old lady who knows "Leo" is more than he appears,

Finally, I'm fascinated by the mythology of the story, both the invented mythos of the star-denizens and the Celtic myth elements of the cold dogs and the Hunt. Most of the story is set on Earth, so the bits about the denizens are sort of in the background, but DWJ never lets anything go to waste. Polaris is a variable star? Its denizen must be a stammerer! I get the impression that DWJ had thought the background through enough that she could have written a second book just based on that material. It's the sort of thing that gives depth to a story, and I'd admire Dogsbody for it even if I didn't love it.
Profile Image for Verity Brown.
Author 1 book10 followers
February 2, 2013

I'm already a fan of Diana Wynne Jones, and I'd heard this was one of her best books (in spite of being one of her earliest), but neither of those things prepared me for how deeply this story moved me.

I think that part of what gives this story its power is that Jones pulls no punches here. The antagonists and the abuse they deal out are not made "safe for kids" by an over-the-top Roald Dahl treatment (as they often are in Jones' other books). The nasty adults do and threaten to do things that real nasty adults do. The nasty children do things that real nasty children do. Nor does Jones avoid other subjects that usually aren't "permitted" in books for kids: overt racism (against the Irish--the story takes place at the height of IRA violence), parental death, and mindless mating attraction (among the dog characters; no sex is actually described). Even the solving of the mystery involves the recognition of a painfully adult-level betrayal. There are good people in the story, even good adults that are almost too good to be true, if you didn't know that there are people that good in the world. This isn't a cynically dark story, but it is a realistically dark one. And yet ultimately a hopeful one. Hopeful enough to bring a tear to my cynical old eyes.

Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,006 followers
July 28, 2013
I've been asking people to look over my list of unread books and pick out one or two, or even a few, that really interest them and talk to me about it. Dogsbody is the first of the books I've read picked out for me like that: the clinching factor (apart from it being short and written by Diana Wynne Jones) was that I was told it has an end that is both happy and sad.

That turns out to be true. A lot of the story is very young at heart -- the main character becomes a young puppy and slowly has to grow up and learn about the world, and he's adopted by a young girl who he adores (and who adores him). He plays and learns and gets in trouble in a very doggish way that I think anyone could enjoy. It's often funny, and Jones seems to have got dogs and cats -- and people -- just right.

Then there's the more complicated layer, the sci-fi/fantasy issue of Sirius' crime, trial, and eventual reinstatement. There's references to the Irish Troubles, and the difficulties of race relations between the Irish and the English. There's the issue of child abuse. And there's the old, Celtic, barely glimpsed (appropriate, because barely remembered) mythology and its strange rituals, Arawn and his hounds...

I think there's a lot there that could be confusing if you expect to get all the answers. What is a Zoi, why Sirius' Companion do what she did, who and what exactly is the Earth's dark child... In that sense, it's unsatisfying, because there aren't that many answers. But this way, you get to keep thinking and wondering long after you've closed the book.
Profile Image for Lily.
289 reviews49 followers
March 17, 2015
In the universe of Dogsbody, stars are ruled by spirits called luminaries. When a nearby star "goes nova" and a device called the Zoi falls to earth, the luminary of Sirius is falsely accused of murder. His punishment is to be born on Earth as a dog and retrieve the Zoi--or die trying.

Yes, it's quite a bizarre book. I normally associate DWJ's stories with whimsy, charm, and magic, and this book is a bit of a departure from those themes. Of all the books by her that I've read, Dogsbody stands out as the most fantastical and the most realistic, the most tragic and the most uplifting. After reading it a few years ago, and having since then recommended it to 2404297851 people, I decided it was about time that I re-read it to make sure it was as good as I remembered.

I have to say that there were parts in the first half of the novel that I found somewhat slow, but once it picked up momentum it was thoroughly action-packed and impossible to put down. The personalities of the Sun, Earth, and Moon are wonderful--anthropomorphic, yet clearly not human. (I especially enjoyed Sun's protectiveness of Earth.) Animals' personalities were portrayed equally well, as was Sirius's constant inner battle to get around his dog nature to remember where he came from--or vice versa, when his dog nature saves his life. There's definitely a fairy-tale element to this story, with some surprising departures from the norm.

At its core, I think this story has a pretty bitter theme--being betrayed, and then being the betrayer--but it's also full of beauty. I closed the book with an immense feeling of awe and gratitude.
Profile Image for T.L. Bodine.
Author 13 books24 followers
December 28, 2011
I checked this book out of the library from a small town I lived in for a short time. I think I was in fifth grade. The book managed to haunt me (in all the right ways) well into my adulthood, but I could never find it again until someone ordered a copy off Amazon and gave it to me my freshman year of college.

The second time I read it, I finished it in a couple of hours.

It made me cry both times.

The plot does fail to explain itself. Something deep and wonderful is going on just beyond the pages, and DWJ sees no need to explain it. Maybe that's what made it so haunting for me. As a child, I completely missed the Irish subtext that made such integral backstory to Kathy's character, but as an adult it was an amazing discovery to make and further proves just what a many-layered, fast read this is.
Profile Image for Natt Cham.
176 reviews44 followers
April 30, 2017
Magnificent! จินตนาการสุดบรรเจิด ยอดเยี่ยมเกินคำบรรยาย

ด้วยความคาดหมายว่าเป็นหนังสือดีสำหรับเยาวชนในตอนแรก แต่ก็พบว่าดีเยี่ยมสำหรับคนทุกเพศทุกวัย เป็นหนังสือที่ทั้งดีและอ่านสนุก ช่วยสร้างเสริมจินตนาการทั้งแฟนตาซีและวิทยาศาสตร์ได้เป็นอย่างดี

เป็นหนังสือที่ควรมีไว้ทุกบ้าน โดยเฉพาะครอบครัวที่มีเด็กก่อนวัยรุ่น หนังสือเล่มนี้จะช่วยเปิดจินตนาการให้เยาวชนได้เป็นอย่างดี. เป็นหนังสือที่จะแนะนำให้ลูกหลานได้อ่านอย่างแน่นอน
Profile Image for Chris.
731 reviews99 followers
March 4, 2023
A ‘dogsbody’ is of course a common way of describing a drudge, a Johnny Factotum, the office boy who makes the tea, the hapless school student on work experience. And there is a drudge in this story: Kathleen, who fulfils the role of a Cinderella under the thumb of a surrogate stepmother.

But the title of this novel is also the starting point for the notion that a celestial being can inhabit the body of a dog, and that is the main trigger for this story. The most famous celestial body with a canine association is the so-called Dog Star, Sirius, so the question is, how does Sirius come to be incarnated in a puppy just about to be drowned at birth?

I love the way that Diana Wynne Jones novels work: the way you can identify with one or more of the main characters, the way that each story arc leads to a resolution of sorts, the way disparate ideas come together in poetic and perhaps meaningful names and images and incidents.

In Dogsbody — a relatively early work in her writing career — all three features are present. Jones had a long-lived Labrador called Caspian — named perhaps from the Prince in the Narnia tales? — whose apparent intuitive intelligence inspired both the dedication (“For Caspian, who might really be Sirius”) and the impetus for the tale, the first chapter of which she wrote in a white-heat when she should have been entertaining her mother-in-law.

Kathleen, who adopts Sirius and calls him Leo, is a young Irish girl whose father is imprisoned during the Troubles; in this young girl, a book-lover but an outsider, and therefore a victim who gets picked on, we can see the author portraying aspects of her own childhood. The family Kathleen is fostered with — the distant father, the domineering mother, the brothers who alternately tease or support Kathleen — is vaguely reminiscent of the dysfunctional family that Jones herself grew up in, though her sisters were hopefully less fickle then Basil or Robin Duffield.

Sirius, reborn in this world of 1970s Britain, gradually overcomes his amnesia and comes to a realisation of his celestial nature. Why was he exiled to earth? Sol, the Earth and the Moon all seem to know before he does: he is on a quest for a mysterious object called the Zoi which he was somehow instrumental in sending to Earth. And he is in a race to find it before others more sinister than him. To me the Zoi is clearly derived from the Greek, ζωή (“life”), suggesting some kind of vital spark, a life force, without which his sphere of influence in the universe — the solar system that the Dog Star, brightest star in our sky, was responsible for, along with a white dwarf companion — will suffer, along with our own system. Sirius’ search for the Zoi, which serves as the story arc, is a classic Quest story, in which he is aided by various Helpful Companions and in which we hope he Overcomes the Monster, another basic plot, which threatens to cause utter chaos.

A kind of deus ex machina appears towards the end of the tale, a personage who has been prefigured in one of the books Kathleen has been reading: in one of the Welsh medieval tales called The Mabinogion she will have encountered the god of the underworld called Arawn, who may or may not be akin to the ancient horned Celtic god Cernunnos. A truly terrifying chthonic creature, he is not subject to the same laws as celestial beings. He is at one point specifically identified as Orion, the hunter whom the constellation Canis Major accompanies in the heavens, and this Arawn / Orion /Cernunnos correspondence provides one of the pivotal scenes in the closing chapters.

These triggers for Jones’ imaginative fireworks are not the only attractions of the novel, of course. You do feel justifiable anger as Kathleen is bullied, and heartbreak as she is subjected to loss. But we mustn’t forget that Dogsbury is told from the viewpoint of Sirius the dog, and the author’s novelistic descriptions of how his canine nature conflicts with the growing cognisance of his real nature is cleverly done.

To purloin an astronomical term, the conjuctions that occur between different ideas are finely balanced with how we need to gravitate towards real human beings and real human emotions. It’s all done in quite a satisfying and, dare I say it, heavenly fashion.
Profile Image for Kusaimamekirai.
647 reviews215 followers
October 12, 2017
A short and beautifully written story about a celestial being falsely accused of murder who is sentenced to live on earth in the body of a dog.
Yet this is so much more than a murder mystery where the main character tries to return to his previous life. It's about someone sensing for the first time the natural world around him with all of its sights and smells(the latter a particularly vivd and wonderfully written).
Most of all its a touching story of the bond between a young girl who is mistreated by almost everyone around her and the dog who starts to wonder if going him is better than the life he has on earth.
Very moving, and reminds you that what you have in the here and now, no matter how simple is sometimes the best.
Profile Image for Victoria.
2,512 reviews53 followers
April 15, 2010
Oh, I REALLY enjoyed this book! Though this is targeted toward the young adult market, I think it is a story for all ages! The premise of a celestial being trapped in the body of a dog on Earth is definitely unique, but the way it is written, though it is a fantasy novel at heart, there are a lot of realistic details about a dog's life. Anyone looking for a unique spin on a dog book would definitely enjoy this! The dog/star's perspective was wonderful and just completely unlike anything else I have ever read. A wonderful, mythic sort of tale... just terrific!
Profile Image for Erk.
464 reviews49 followers
January 4, 2020
เรื่องราวน่ารักมากๆ อ่านเพลินดี แฟนตาซีเสริมสร้างจินตนาการ เมื่อซิริอุสดาวสุนัขที่ถูกตัดสินโทษ ให้ต้องไปเกิดเป็นสุนัขจริงๆบนโลกและต้องตามหาโซอี้ที่หายไป เป็นหนังสือที่ทาสหมาไม่ควรพลาดเลย และเหมาะอย่างยิ่งแก่เด็กๆเยาวชน 🐶💚🦴
Profile Image for Joaquin Mejia.
81 reviews1 follower
March 25, 2020
I noticed that the Diana Wynne Jones novels that I have read would usually feature a few animal characters that would help the protagonist in some way. In "Dogsbody" however, the animal character takes center stage. The book tells the story of a star called Sirius who is sent to Earth as a dog as a penalty for a crime he did not do. He will need to look for an object called the Zoi in order to return to his star form.

This novel is a fun story about animals, children, and celestial beings. It is a story about dogs and cats but it is also a story about ordinary people and talking stars. These ideas that Diana Wynne Jones incorporated into the story made the story exciting. They made me want to read further and further into the story. This is the twelfth book by Diana Wynne Jones and I think it is one of her most fun, entertaining, and creative ones.

Profile Image for Steve.
917 reviews134 followers
November 3, 2017
Plucked out of the way-back machine (based upon the compelling recommendation of none other than Neil Gaiman, in his collected non-fiction View From the Cheap Seats, which, of course, was originally the introduction to modern version of Dogsbody that I read), this short, quick, but more importantly interesting and different period piece was a fortuitous find. There's a lot going on here - mostly fantasy, a dabble of sci-fi, a dollop of British-Irish historical tension and ugliness, families, loss, love, hope, longing, and dogs (and even cats)....

There's no question I enjoyed it, and I'm always glad to expand my horizons and welcome new authors and idea and perspectives. At the same time, I didn't love it, and I don't necessarily crave more of it, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't recommend it...

In the end, it's an intriguing find and a likely recommendation for dog lovers (no, this isn't Edgar Sawtelle or Racing in the Rain or Until Tuesday - no, they're horses of a different color), but don't be quick too quick to lump it with Red Fern or Old Yellar either, but I digress), childrens'/young adult readers (and, more importantly, those of us who have discovered innumerable gems too often ignored because of their young adult genre stigma), and younger librarians who've run out of recommendations after that precocious, somewhat nerdy kid they see every weekend has blown through the Bruce Coville shelf, but is bored by the more modern, cookie cutter serial fantasy and sci fi.

I'm a sucker for a satisfying ending, conclusion, wrap up, denouement - and, while I fully appreciate an ear-to-ear grin or a sentimental tear - I'm pretty open to a wide range of resolutions, epilogues, or codas. For me, the final riff, indeed, the last chapter, felt unnecessarily abrupt and truncated. It's not a spoiler and, indeed, Gaiman's introduction warned readers that Wynne Jones doesn't offer a conventional finale, but - like so many things in the book - what she leaves you with is sufficiently unique to be, at a minimum ... satisfying ... enough.
Profile Image for Luke Taylor.
Author 15 books299 followers
May 22, 2017
Wow! What an outstanding book! Perfect for dog or cat owners, or anyone who likes a magical adventure, Dogsbody is everything you hope it could be and more. Topsy-turvy and whip smart, fun and engaging, faced-paced and well-detailed, deep and heartwarming, Dogsbody is a wonderful example of a gifted storyteller weaving her unforgettable magic and hitting every color and flavor in the spectrum along the way. If Diana Wynne Jones isn't one of your favorite authors, I must ask...why not? Many thanks to the wonderful Sveta for this lovely book and for introducing me to Diana Wynne Jones and her awesome stories. Recommended for all ages.
Profile Image for Kaethe.
6,362 reviews456 followers
July 17, 2014
How does one write sympathetically of animals without going all the way over the line and putting them in waistcoats? Or realistically, without killing them off right away? It's tricky, and a little trippy, but a very cool result.
Profile Image for Stephen Wallace.
509 reviews69 followers
March 31, 2022
I am only giving it 4 stars to distinguish it from the books on dogs that are truly great. This book is very cute and interesting in it's own way. It seems to me like a cute clash up with a good dog story of a little Irish girl Kathleen and a dog that is there to help, and a fairy tale. It has the aspect of a much older book, but is copywrite 1975. The book certainly is very different from any I have read, so it is hard for me to give a summary. I just liked it, and it was fun, so I would recommend it.
Profile Image for Rachel.
239 reviews
July 26, 2020
Reread 7/26/20:
I re-read this using my library's ebook app, along with a beautiful introduction by Neil Gaiman I hadn't read before. I should add, I am also coming back from a week with my partner's family and their big, fluffy dog. I started sobbing as soon as I finished it. It's so well done and rewards reading on its multiple levels. Now that I am giving up Harry Potter, it's a joy to revisit an author who was just as formative to me in my early teen years. (Even the Classical and British names these books have in common - Sirius, Romulus and Remus, Kathleen's Uncle Harry - are a comfort because they show that R*wling was never uniquely brilliant.)

Original review:
I adore this book - it's probably my favorite Diana Wynne Jones book, besides Witch Week. It follows Sirius, a star banished to earth in the body of a dog until he can prove his innocence. Sirius doesn't remember who he is at first; he's simply a very intelligent puppy saved from drowing by a young girl. The book has two stories; the story of Sirius as he realizes who he is and proves his innocence (helped by the Sol, the sun), and the story of his owner, an unwanted girl living with her Aunt and Uncle. I hope I've caught your interest, because if you're at all a fantasy fan, you should read this book!
Profile Image for Jenn.
1,031 reviews30 followers
August 12, 2012
Before there was Rowling, there was Diana Wynne Jones. While I love the Harry Potter series, Jones has been a truly original writer in what could variously be considered YA or Adult fiction (an argument could be made for each). This new edition provides - I hope - the appeal and opportunity to place Dogsbody in many more people's hands. I read this several years ago, on my sister's recommendation - she's provided me with some of the best recommendations! - and Dogsbody is one of my favorite novels of all time: a beautifully written and inventive story, one of the most original and Jones' stories always resonate with a powerful voice. The main character, Sirius, is the dog star. Literally. It sounds unusual, but he is an especially fantastic character. And, while it may at first seem unusual, this is also a great love story. This new edition was lovingly assembled by Firebird (an awesome imprint) by people who knew and adored Diana Wynne Jones - with an introduction by another favorite author, the fabulous Neil Gaiman! - and it is a fitting and worthy reissue of a novel that everyone who loves fantasy should read.
Profile Image for Chris.
731 reviews99 followers
March 10, 2023
In Diana Wynne Jones’s novel Sirius – the name in Greek means ‘scorcher’ – is the so-called ‘luminary’ of Alpha Canis Majoris, the brightest star of the constellation Canis Major. Known as the Dog Star it’s the principal body in a binary star system, its companion being a white dwarf, a degraded star the size of Earth.

But in this tale Sirius and his fellow luminaries are akin to the gods of classical myth: more than mere personifications of stellar bodies they are tutelary spirits who guard or protect the entities they’re named after. With each jealous of their place in the celestial hierarchy all indulge in Byzantine diplomacy, calling each other Effulgency while firmly asserting what they see as their rights and privileges.

Sirius, however, is in trouble: accused of killing a fellow luminary after a loss of temper, and then losing an object called the Zoi, he is condemned to be incarnated as a puppy, on Earth, which is where the Zoi appears to have ended up. And more is to befall him: having been born in a dog’s body as one of a litter of mongrel puppies to a pedigree bitch he, together with his siblings, is destined to be placed in a sack and dumped in a river. His earthly sentence seems about to end just as soon as it has begun.

"No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man." —Heraclitus

What I get out of revisiting a book I once enjoyed is not just more of the same but also the sense of it not being exactly the same as I remembered it. So when I first enjoyed Diana Wynne Jones’s fantasy Dogsbody I thought that I’d got a handle on it and that my review essentially said all I’d wanted to say about it.

But a recent reread confirmed Herclitus’s dictum: this time Dogsbody was not the same book, largely because I was not the same man. What I’d comfortably taken, using the fantasy’s title as a clue, as effectively a retelling of the Cinderella story, plus a few additional mythic echoes, I now found was more complex and perhaps profounder than I’d suspected. But complex and profound though this may be there was still the same mischievous spark of humour that I remembered from before.

Fate takes a hand and Sirius’s death sentence is commuted to becoming the pet of one Kathleen O’Brien. She it is who is the Cinderella figure who is forced to act the part of a drudge in the Duffield family, having been taken in by her mother’s brother; her father is an Irish Nationalist who has been imprisoned as a terrorist in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, and Kathleen has no one else but the Duffields to look after her. Having rescued Sirius, whom she calls Leo, Kathleen’s only consolation in her life as a dogsbody is the rapidly growing puppy which, naturally enough, causes the expected mayhem, therey eliciting the extreme displeasure of her uncle’s wife.

The plot, convoluted enough to be enjoyed for its twists and turns, pivots on whether Sirius is able to locate the mysterious Zoi in whatever form it takes, and in working out how and why and by whom he has been framed for the murder of a luminary. But as above, so below: this is also a touching human story, how the despised Kathleen loves and remains loyal to her pet through thick and thin, and how selfishness and prejudice test the patience and resilience of the innocent. Leavening the casual cruelty of some of the characters are whimsical sections, largely concerned with the brothers Basil and Robin Duffield, the Duffields’ three cats, and Sirius’s canine siblings which, surprisingly, have also survived their watery ordeal.

So, Dogsbody is a quest story as well as a Cinderella story (though the ‘rags to riches’ aspect doesn’t involve Kathleen achieving princess status). In addition I now see it as coloured by motifs from ‘Beauty and the Beast’, particularly the classical ‘Cupid and Psyche’ version that was first told in Metamorphosis, or the Golden Ass by the Roman novelist Apuleius. Kathleen, abandoned with relatives in England and subjected to tribulations, is a kind of Psyche, and Sirius takes the role of Cupid who was reputed to take the shape of a winged serpent because Psyche was never supposed to see his true nature.

In fact, the more I think about Dogsbody the more classical references I see woven into the plot. Sirius, as tutelary spirit of a star, could be termed an animus, a Latin term with a variety of meanings including “breath, life, soul”; Psyche, the role Kathleen takes, is a Greek word meaning “soul”; the Zoi, for which Sirius quests, is related to the Greek zoë which means “life”. The root of Zoi leads me on to the Zodiac which is also alluded to in the novel: as well as being the Dog Star, Sirius is called Leo by Kathleen, who as a maiden is the equivalent of Virgo; when she loses her temper and smashes up Mrs Duffield’s pottery she is almost literally a Bull in a china shop; and the constellation of Orion too has a part to play in the role of a horned hunter as Arawn, the Welsh lord of the Underworld. Once the earnest literary detective starts the mythical clues seem endless, as the author herself implies when she has Kathleen reading bedtime stories like ‘Bluebeard’ aloud to a dog which, unbeknown to her, understands every word she says.

Myth was a source Diana Wynne Jones was to return to throughout her writing life: for example Eight Days of Luke drew from Norse myth in the 1970s, while three decades later The Game (2007) involved Greek deities and a concept called the mythosphere. But because as we all know the gods are like petulant children playing at grown-ups, her skill was to draw the reader into the human dramas she narrated, tragedies as well as comedies, blithely ignoring the convention that children’s fiction should be undemanding.
Profile Image for Dominika.
79 reviews10 followers
November 9, 2022
This was a unique blend of cosmology, Welsh mythology, IRA politics, and domestic family life that worked surprisingly well. If it was coming from anyone else, I would have passed it over, but Diana Wynne Jones is a story-teller par excellence. The character arc she created for the star, Sirius, from proud and rash to humbled and selfless, was fantastic. The supporting characters, in true DWJ fashion, were richly drawn and indispensable. It's hard to pick a favorite book of hers but this one is up there.
Profile Image for Bryan Ball.
187 reviews12 followers
June 18, 2022
I loved this book. The premise is wild; Sirius the Dog Star is a celestial being accused of committing a crime, and sentenced to be born as a dog on Earth, where he meets a young girl who rescues him.

This novel is for anyone who has ever loved an animal, and has wondered in awe where beings like a dog or cat come from, and where they go. The best parts of this novel are Sirius and his girl Kathleen learning the world through each other. Such a beautiful, unique, funny, heart-warming and heart-breaking book. Thank you to Neil Gaiman for making me pick this up, as I otherwise would not have, and thank you to Diana Wynne Jones for writing a book that deserves to be remembered.
Profile Image for Bibliothecat.
561 reviews55 followers
October 3, 2018

It has nothing to do with the fact that I am a cat person that I didn't really enjoy this one. I like dogs well enough but I felt this story lacked the humour, charm and unique style of Diana Wynne Jones.

For the most of it, I felt quite bored with the story. There was too much day to day activity from the perspective of a dog and not enough about Sirius' star side. Everything I found interesting about this book was just vastly underexplored - the whole hierarchy in the solar system, the cold dogs that run at moonlight, a weapon called 'Zoi'...

I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if we would have seen more of the fantasy side. Instead, it focused so much on everyday dog-life going to great details that reach as far as describing dogs in heat. Kathleen's own story was also more interesting than that, it was quite shockingly cruel and reminded me of Harry Potter's life with the Dursleys. But that also left me disappointed: The story picked up around 80% into the book and I thought the ending might just change my feelings towards it. But then it fell flat again as I found Kathleen's reactions weak and unrelatable, not to mention that it just didn't feel like much was resolved.

Last but not least, this is the first time I've read a book with so many typos. I highly doubt it's the author's doing but whoever edited this particular edition. It did get in the way of reading, though, leaving this to be the only DWJ book that I've felt so little for that I will be giving my copy away.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
615 reviews21 followers
April 28, 2020
Is there anything worse—or better—than a book where the correct and satisfying ending is also heartbreakingly sad? This is a beautiful story about how a star learned how to be a dog, and by learning how to be a dog learned what real love is, and also saved the world. Diana Wynne Jones gives us a vision of the universe where the unseen world of the stars and the earth and moon teems with life right next to ours, where the mundane and the celestial collide and intersect. If you read the edition with an introduction by Neil Gaiman, take his advice and skip the introduction until after you’ve finished the book, though it may take you a while to get your vision clear enough to get all the way through his words. “I hope this book made you sad and happy,” Gaiman concludes, and I can vouch that it did both extremely well.
Profile Image for Almeta.
625 reviews68 followers
August 25, 2012
Be sure to take Neil Gaiman's Introduction advice seriously.

Excellent fantasy mystery. Loved the slow revelation of Sirius's transformation from a heavenly to an earthly creature.

I gather this is a bit darker for Diana Wynne Jones. (May be a bit disturbing for the younger children.)

If you love fantasy I recommend this one.

Go on, run with the hounds!
Profile Image for Natalie.
196 reviews6 followers
September 10, 2019
This book is quite strange and good, however every cover ever has been horrible so how am I going to convince any children at the library to read it?!?
Profile Image for Nightrunner.
448 reviews32 followers
March 17, 2021
Sirius the dog star getting punished and forced to be a dog on Earth? Count me in! That's what I said when a friend of mine introduced this book. I've loved some of Diana Wynne Jones' books since childhood, still I didn't understand how old this book was. And I did not grasp at all how it would be. I think I expected an adventurous fantasy, probably with a dog either talking or communicating like they do in the movie Good Boy, but that's not it. Nope, Sirius is banished into a new born puppy and his puppy brain have to grow before he can even remember his quest. This means we get to be there to follow a puppy growing up, from the puppy's perspective!

That was not what I expected, nevertheless, I'm not disappointed. There's so much dog life here, from the perspective of a dog, that I caught myself giggling a lot. I love the cats and their nonchalance. I love how Sirius, with the logic of a dog but awareness like a luminary, lick his human's face in appreciation. All of them are so alive! I do hope though that people have a better view of animals now, because some of those humans are AWFUL. In the beginning, the violence towards the puppies almost had me stop reading. But thankfully not all humans are like that. Sirius' "owner" is a wonderful little human who, in some ways, reminded me of Harry Potter. Mostly in the way the family abuses her.

At the same time as capturing the everyday of a dog, Dogsbody also have amazing elements of magic. The luminaries, even our own sun, have bodies that in some weird way makes sense. They're both close and afar, they can effect everything in their sphere, at the same time as they can't. It's magical with the feel of an old fairy tale, and it feels cozy. There's some twists along the way and the ending is wonderful. Bittersweet, but sweet nonetheless.
Profile Image for Rosie.
116 reviews15 followers
January 8, 2023
I read this many years ago. Was one of those stories that lingered in the back of my mind, details slightly fuzzy until rereading it again now.

I've been planning to read through Diana Wynne Jones' work and it felt good to start with this one.

It's a simple story on the surface, a nice imagining of the components of the solar system as beings, individuals, people with all the human foibles. A mystery to reveal, the ever relatable connection between children and their pets, the comfort they bring in difficult circumstances.

I had also forgotten how sadly bittersweet the ending is. The awful day Kathleen has at the end is quite overwhelming, how they all get what they asked for, though it's not what they end up wanting.

I found a lot of subtle references in the book, of prejudice, unfairness, social dynamics, hope and love. The brief but impactful mention at the end of Sirius's choice regarding a new Companion at the end.

Great start to this author's works.
Profile Image for Carmen.
1,987 reviews
April 21, 2020
Sol appraised him, suffusing him with warmth. "That body they put you in isn't more than half-grown yet. You'll have to wait till it's older before you can remember properly. But I'm glad you know who you are now. I need your help, and I hope I can help you."
Sirius gazed up at him dubiously. "Don't get into trouble. I can't do anything to help you. And if you help me, you may find the high effulgents objecting."
"To blazes with that!" Sol was furious. Rays of anger, intense and white, stood out all around him. The dog part of Sirius trembled to see him. He wondered if he had been that terrifying, ever, when he was angry."
Profile Image for Vishy.
668 reviews210 followers
May 8, 2014
I first got to know about Diana Wynne Jones a few years back when I discovered a Diana Wynne Jones event being hosted in the blogoshere. I have never heard of her before and so I made a mental note to explore her works later. Then Diana Wynne Jones started cropping up everywhere – I discovered that a collection of fantasy short stories on my bookshelf had a short story by her and then I discovered that another collection of fantasy stories on my bookshelf was edited by her. Then I heard more bloggers talking about her. So, this year I decided to read my first Diana Wynne Jones book. That is how I read ‘Dogsbody’. This is what I think.

The Dog Star Sirius is tried in a court of his peers and is found guilty of murder. He is sentenced to live as a dog on Earth. He is given an option to redeem himself. If he finds the powerful thing called the Zoi, which he has carelessly lost, he will be reinstated to his former glory. If not, he will continue to live and die as a dog. The punishment is swiftly executed and Sirius is born as a dog. Unfortunately the woman who owns his mother decides to kill Sirius and all his puppy brothers and sisters by drowning them in the river. Sirius somehow manages to escape and float on the river and a girl called Kathleen saves him. Kathleen keeps him as a pet despite stiff opposition at home. She lives in her uncle’s home and her aunt dislikes her and so does one of her cousins. They try every trick to send Sirius out but Kathleen’s wish prevails. Slowly, Sirius gets to like his new place. He loves his mistress Kathleen. But he also discovers that a dog’s life is hard on Earth. Human beings have all the power and eventhough his mistress Kathleen loves him very much, she can’t protect him at all times. Though Sirius thinks that he is a dog, his luminary consciousness is not far behind his doggie mind. He starts to slowly learn the truth about himself and then plans to discover the Zoi. He discovers though that there are some bad folks looking for it too. He also realizes that there is more to it than meets the eye with respect to the crime he had been accused of. Will Sirius be able to work under the limitations of a dog’s body and find the Zoi and redeem himself? And if he does find it what will happen then? Will it be easy parting with his mistress and all his friends and people he loves? The answers to all these questions form the rest of the story.

I loved ‘Dogsbody’. From one perspective, it is about a fallen celestial luminary trying to redeem himself. From another perspective – probably the more important one – it is about the love of a dog and a girl for each other. I loved the way Diana Wynne Jones takes us inside the mind of a dog and shows us how it might think. I think Sirius is one of my favourite dog characters ever. I think he is up there with Lynx from Marlen Haushofer’s ‘The Wall’. I also loved most of the characters in the book. My favourite characters outside of Sirius and Kathleen were Mrs.Smith (who helps Sirius and Kathleen) and Sirius’ friend, the cat Tibbles. I loved the scenes where Sirius yearns for the same kind of freedom that the housecats have and also the scenes which describe how Sirius becomes friends with the cats after the initial hostility and how their friendship grows.

The book also asks an important question – if one’s life changes in a radical way from a position of influence and power to a position of an ordinary person, and if one manages to find joy in the little things in life in the new circumstance and form beautiful friendships and find love, what happens when things change again and one has the chance to get back one’s lost glory? Should one take that chance and lose everything beautiful that one has now, or should one forego that chance and live the everyday beautiful life? Or is there some third choice in which one can have both? It is a hard question to answer and the book has some interesting things to say about that.

The book had an interesting introduction by Neil Gaiman (Gaiman says at the beginning – “Don’t read this introduction. Read the book first” – I loved that) which I enjoyed reading.

I will leave you with some of my favourite passages from the book.

He might be stronger than all three cats put together, but he could not use his paws as they did. He saw that this put him further under the power of humans than the cats. Because of their skill, the cats lived a busy and private life outside and inside the house, whereas he had to wait for a human to lead him about.

It was not a creature at all, it was a planet, the most beautiful and kindly he had known. Of course he had talked to Earth. He had done so every time he scoured around the meadow or splashed in the river or sniffed the air. And Earth had talked to him in return, in every living way possible – in scents and sights, in the elegance of Tibbles, the foolish charm of Patchie, in Miss Smith’s brusqueness, in Kathleen’s kindness, in Basil’s roughness and even in Duffie’s coldness. Earth contained half the universe and had taught him everything he knew.

…he knew that people would take in a dog more readily than they would take in a fellow human. It was odd, but it was true.

Have you read ‘Dogsbody’? What do you think about it?
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