Diana Wynne Jones

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Graham Hammond

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Dogsbody is about Sirius, the hot-tempered star, framed and found guilty of the murder of a young luminary by striking him with a Zoi which is lost in the process. He is banished to the body of a creature in the sphere where the missing Zoi is thought to have fallen. Sirius will be reinstated if he retrieves the Zoi during the life span of the creature; if not, he will simply die when it dies….

The idea is quite ingenious and gives Diana Wynne Jones scope for her invention, but some important things elude her, such as convincing human dialogue and moments of pathos. Confusing shifts of tone from serious to comic put the dramatic tension at risk, and the attempt to combine so many strands—stellar, canine, human, and the troubles in Ireland—over-taxes the author, even though in the end she neatly resolves the dichotomy of Sirius and Kathleen moving in their respective but interacting spheres.

Graham Hammond, "Death Duties," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1976; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), No. 3864, April 2, 1976, p. 383.∗

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