A Ukrainian street dog is rescued from certain death by an expat family. As he travels to new countries with them a darkness grows and he finds himself narrating more than just his story. More than a dog story. Ultimately it's a story of escape and survival but maybe not his. The world through Wee Dan's eyes is told in a voice that will stay with you long after you turn that last page. The animals in this book are all real, as are their stories. The people's names have been changed to protect their privacy. Fact or fiction? Well, dogs can't talk, can they?
I had the pleasure of featuring Fiona on the blog last year with a guest post for her first novel, ‘To Retribution’. When I was approached to be on the blog tour for her second novel, ‘Dan Knew‘ this immediately appealed – I’ve always been a dog person and love a dog story. I understand that Dan Knew is a semi-biographical account of the author’s earlier life. The story begins with who we later understand to be Fiona’s daughter finding a stray puppy ‘Dan’ whilst they were living in the Ukraine. The puppy is traumatised by having seen his own dog family taken away and is lost and fearful of what is to come. Luckily for the pup, he struck lucky. He had found loving owners and subsequently formed a particularly close bond with Fiona – his ‘Mum’.
The story is narrated by Dan, and whilst it did feel a little strange to have a dog telling a story in such a simplistic way i.e calling a car ‘the machine’, it worked well as a way of telling a story. Through Dan’s eyes, we see the upheaval of several house moves whilst Fiona was teaching – from Ukraine to Estonia, then to Scotland, relationship difficulties and serious illness. There were happy moments too I hasten to add! There were some parts that I think could have benefited from a stronger edit, especially when Dan was talking about smells and routes on his many walks and I did skim read some of these but this didn’t hinder my overall enjoyment of the story.
For a small dog, Dan had a huge personality. He could be jealous of other people and animals who took his Mum’s attention away from him but he knew instinctively when comfort was needed. Fiona’s love for all her pets comes through clearly but Dan had a special place in her heart.
The book is approximately 342 pages and is an emotional read at times. From reading Dan’s narrative, the author has had an interesting and roller coaster of a life, with many highs and lows. Dan Knew is a charming story which I’m sure will appeal to anyone interested in other people’s lives but I suspect it will especially strike a chord with many animal lovers.
About the author:
Fiona dropped out of school aged 15, because being the consummate rebel, she hated it! After becoming a single parent she decided to return to education, graduating in 1996 with an honours degree in primary education. Ah, the irony!
As soon as she graduated she packed everything she owned into her Renault 11, including her daughter, two dogs and a cat, and headed off to Estonia to become an international school teacher. After fifteen years of teaching, predominantly in Eastern Europe, she returned to the UK and had a battle with a particularly nasty cancer, which she won.
She now lives on the east coast of Scotland with a rescued Ukrainian street mutt (heavy sigh – now deceased…), a rescue Black Lab and Springer Spaniel and a Portuguese cat who doesn’t like the weather!
‘To Retribution’ was her first novel. The semi-biographical, Dan Knew, her second.