Book review: Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

Tuesday, June 28, 2016 Permalink

When we first meet Ted and Lily (his 12 year old dachshund) they are debating the Ryans (Gosling vs Reynolds). It’s Thursday, you see – the night Ted and Lily put aside to talk about cute boys.

It’s a wonderful opening. We ‘get’ that 42 yr old Ted is gay and that Lily is his beloved and constant companion and confidante. However it’s in the opening scene that Ted first sees the octopus.

The octopus looks angry as much as out of place. Aggressive perhaps is a better word. Like it is announcing itself and would like the room. I’m not going to lie. It’s as frightening as it is confounding. p 5

Book review: Lily and the Octopus by Steven RowleyLily and the Octopus
by Steven Rowley
Published by Simon & Schuster AU
on June 1st 2016
Source: Simon & Schuster
Genres: Literary Fiction
ISBN: 9781471146640
Pages: 320

The magic of this novel is in the read, and we don’t want to spoil it by giving away too many details. We can tell you that this is a story about that special someone: the one you trust, the one you can’t live without.

For Ted Flask, that someone special is his aging companion Lily, who happens to be a dog. Lily and the Octopus reminds us how it feels to love fiercely, how difficult it can be to let go, and how the fight for those we love is the greatest fight of all.

I’d heard good things about this novel, but was later than planned getting to it due to a combination of an overwhelming TBR pile and recent commitments.

However… finally I opened the book, hoping it’d grab my attention but completely in the dark as to what the book was about.

And once you get used to the Ted/Lily and Ted/octopus conversations, you can’t help but fall under the spell of this wonderful and quirky piece of fiction.

Ted and Lily are inseparable and their lives are heavily interdependent. I found myself wondering if there was something in Ted’s past that Lily was replacing…. (and yes, that’s Deborah with the undergrad Psychology degree rearing her ugly head!).

Through a series of early flashbacks we learn how Lily came to Ted and start to understand their attachment.

Beautifully and poignantly written. Ted (and Lily) are both divinely smart and sassy. Rowley does a wonderful job in developing Ted and his world.

Of course ultimately it’s the octopus – and what it symbolises – that forces Ted to contemplate the life he and Lily have lived together… their monopoly nights, ice cream binges and lengthy debates about all sorts of weird and wonderful things. And there’s a realisation that I could very much relate to. Though am without an octopus-laden dog of course.

How much of (it) was an elaborate construct to mask my own loneliness? How much of it was built to convince myself the attempts I made at real life – therapy, dating – were not just that: attempts?

Somewhere, sometime, I stopped really living. I stopped really trying. And I don’t understand why. I had done all the right things….

… I don’t understand how my life got so empty, or why the octopus came, or why everyone eventually goes away. p 275

As Ted battles the octopus he is – of course – battling much more than the ‘beast’ that’s taken hold of his dog.

It sounds like a cliche but this is a story of love and loss. And of an increasing awareness of those who come into our lives and how their presence can help us learn more about ourselves.

I have to be better at living in the not knowing. p 17

This is a stunning debut novel from Rowley. There are a few small gaps and loose threads, but none that really matter. It’s quirky and for the type of person who takes everything literally (like me!), it takes some getting used to. But it’s clever and addictive. And it’s bloody good.

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley is published in Australia by Simon & Schuster and is now available.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.


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