Suzanne Berne - The Dogs of Littlefield
This look at the dark underbelly of American suburbia lacks nuance and punch
In her latest novel, Orange Prize winner Suzanne Berne (A Crime In The Neighbourhood) tackles the well-trodden territory of the darkness that lies beneath the surface of American suburbia. Told from the perspective of various residents, the veneer of suburban bliss erodes as someone begins poisoning the Littlefield dogs.
It’s a risk to approach a topic that has such brilliant antecedents (Updike, Cheever, Homes), and sadly the risk doesn’t pay off. Berne serves up the same well-worn clichés of bored housewives, emotionally distant husbands and malcontent kids without adding anything new. The Dogs of Littlefield suffers from too much exposition, particularly with the inclusion of the views of a sociologist who is studying the village residents, resulting in a flat narrative. Making a bid for insight, Berne references the financial collapse and other global concerns, but along with an attempt at dark humour the result is clumsy and awkward.
The Dogs of Littlefield strives to be an incisive satire in the league of AM Homes (May We Be Forgiven) but lacks nuance and punch, resulting in a mediocre narrative about mediocre characters.