Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis

Fifteen Dogs

By André Alexis

  • Release Date: 2015-04-02
  • Genre: Literary
Score: 4
From 196 Ratings
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An utterly convincing and moving look at the beauty and perils of consciousness.
— I wonder, said Hermes, what it would be like if animals had human intelligence.
— I'll wager a year's servitude, answered Apollo, that animals – any animal you like – would be even more unhappy than humans are, if they were given human intelligence.
And so it begins: a bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo leads them to grant human consciousness and language to a group of dogs overnighting at a Toronto vet­erinary clinic. Suddenly capable of more complex thought, the pack is torn between those who resist the new ways of thinking, preferring the old 'dog' ways, and those who embrace the change. The gods watch from above as the dogs venture into their newly unfamiliar world, as they become divided among themselves, as each struggles with new thoughts and feelings. Wily Benjy moves from home to home, Prince becomes a poet, and Majnoun forges a relationship with a kind couple that stops even the Fates in their tracks.
André Alexis's contemporary take on the apologue offers an utterly compelling and affecting look at the beauty and perils of human consciousness. By turns meditative and devastating, charming and strange, Fifteen Dogs shows you can teach an old genre new tricks.
Fetching praise for Fifteen Dogs:
'[Alexis] devises an inventive romp through the nature of humanity in this beautiful, entertaining read … A clever exploration of our essence, communication, and how our societies are organized.' — Kirkus Reviews
'Alexis manages to encapsulate an astonishing range of metaphysical questions in a simple tale about dogs that came to know too much. The result is a delightful juxtaposition of the human and canine conditions, and a narrative that, like just one of the dogs, delights in the twists and turns of the gods' linguistic gift.' — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Praise for André's previous work, Pastoral:
Globe & Mail Top 100 book of 2014. Nominated for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.
'This novel’s pleasures indeed include a rich sense of place, but that sense comes without sentimentality, and that place is something one might just as easily flee from as call home. Pastoral beauty is certainly on offer, but Alexis’ fluid, evocative descriptions of the rural wonders that surround Barrow are much more than nostalgia for a childhood idyll or mere reverie for revere’s sake — they constitute the very heart of Pastoral’s unresolved/unresolvable crisis of faith.'
National Post
'It’s been clear since his debut novel, Childhood, that Alexis is one of our most distinctive and exacting prose stylists, and at its highest pitch, as in the breathtaking final paragraph, these are sentences that attain the level of the best music.'
Montreal Gazette


  • Sance

    By Gahajvsnka
  • Fifteen Dogs

    By Techtea
    This book is a wonderful diversion into a very special place.
  • A wonderful book!

    By CapnK-9
    Heartwarming, sad and inspiring, all at once. A very enjoyable read!
  • Fifteen Dogs

    By frsky now
    Whether it be the fact that I loathe dogs, despise Greek mythology or just don't care for certain types of fantasy, this book did not do it for me. I am not real sure what exactly made it an award winner.
  • Fifteen Dogs

    By Blugold66
    Loved it....
  • Fifteen Dogs

    By Old lady in Toronto
    I fear that too many superlatives will put my opinions in doubt, but here goes... The best kind of 'Original. Pure poetry. Simple, and at the same time highly complex. BEAUTIFUL writing. A parable for all time. How on earth did MR.Alexis come up with this tale? So looking forward to reading his next book and all those who came before. Marilyn Lightstone
  • Fresh and Insightful

    By Mob42
    This book was interesting as it forced you to take the perspective of a dog. The interventions of the Gods throughout the plot also made the book more and more nuanced. It was more violent than I imagined, but everything was justified. It had very interesting themes given that they were often interpreted by a dog's mind. All in all, very cool book. Hard to put down and very original.
  • So good!!!!

    By Ljrenaud
    Seriously one of the best books I have read this year. Great discussion and analysis of life, love, friendship, humanity and intelligence. It had a amazing plot and characters I cared about. I found it very quirky and refreshing. A short read and totally worth it.
  • Poignant and touching

    By berns88
    3.5 stars… I was torn between giving this book a 3-star rating vs. a 4-star rating. On the one hand, it was a really poignant story of how 15 dogs are affected when they are given "human intelligence". On the other hand, the entire premise is based on a wager between Greek gods Hermes and Apollo, as a measure of the value of humans / human intelligence. Their wager boiled down to whether the dogs are happy at the moment of death. This wager really bothered me because the measure of value of human intelligence should not be restricted to just the precise moment preceding death; it should be based on the affect it had on the full life that was lived, and the impact it had on the lives whose paths it crossed. The nature of this wager was a source of frustration for me, and it was the reason why I did not give it four stars. Also, as a study on humanity or the value of human intelligence, I don't think this was a fair measure. Dogs, by their very nature, are not meant to have the intelligence of humans. The fact that human intelligence might make a dog sad, distressed, confused, or happy - this is not a true measure of human intelligence. If one wanted to measure the value of human intelligence, I think one should look to other indicators. Therefore, while it is a touching story, I don't necessarily agree with the premise. That said, the story was a touching one. It started out as a story of the 15 dogs, collectively, and how they dealt with "the change". Predictably, some dogs embraced it, while other dogs wanted to ignore it. This then leads to factions within the group. Eventually, the story becomes a series of vignettes - we follow the fates of the various factions of dogs, each one with different characters, different ways of coping with their new found "intelligence". I like dogs but I have never owned a dog, nor did I grow up with dogs. Yet, I found myself caring about these dogs a great deal. I imagine someone who really LOVES dogs - someone who owns a dog and/or grew up with them - would become much more emotionally attached to these characters than I did. (My wife is one such person, and I am curious to know how she will react to the fate of these dogs.) Finally, as someone who lives in the Greater Toronto Area, and is familiar with many parts of the city, I enjoyed reading this book and picturing the neighbourhoods where the story plays out. I don't think I've ever read a book that walked me through so many different neighbourhoods of my city. That added a dimension to reading that I have never enjoyed before.
  • Excellent Story

    By rrehders
    Particularly enjoyable if you have lived in Toronto, but an excellent and unique story otherwise as well !