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Black Dogs

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I picked up Ian McEwan’s Back Dogs at a second hand book fair on the Central Coast – a first edition with an intriguing inscription from Peter to Spanner ‘computer correspondent, writer and journalist’ and worthy friend to Peter. Spanner sounds like a busy man, but surely not as prolific a writer McEwan. I have read (in reverse order) Machines like Me, Atonement, Amsterdam, Enduring Love and now Black Dogs, and that’s only one fifth of his published novels. This one at least is short – 174 pages with generous margins.

Black Dogs starts with a preface in which the narrator confesses to a fascination with other people’s parents, having lost his own to an accident at the age of eight. Soon enough his wife’s parents, June and Bernard, have taken centre stage and it is they who are the subject of the story to unfold. Our narrator, Jeremy, is thus both biographer and storyteller with a writer’s neat tricks, like this one: ‘I have taken a number of liberties, the most flagrant of which has b…