Caine Prize: "The Mistress's Dog" by David Medalie


You can read the story here:

Well everyone, we've come to the end of this Caine Prize series. I will be writing a couple of follow-up posts once the prize is announced, and I hope to make it to a couple of the Caine Prize events in London later this week. It's been a great experience interacting with a wonderful group of bloggers with a diverse set of opinions. I hope we'll all get together on another series soon! Special thanks go, of course, to Aaron Bady of Zungu Zungu for organizing the blogathon.

And on to the story. I'm gonna keep it short, if only because it is far and away the best story of the group, both stylistically and thematically. The story is accomplished and layered, and opens up an entire world in its short 5 page span.

Nola is sort of the Nick Carraway to the story, in that she fancies herself an impartial observer of events, but of course she isn't. We have not been told the whole story, and what story we are told is biased. I believe she spends more time now thinking about that damned dog than she does of the people and forces that have governed her life until now. And for leaving her this eternal nuisance, her husband becomes "the powerful man" in her reminiscences. We never learn precisely how the powerful man exercised his power on her, but I think we know that a little of that power remains, and always will, so long as the dog lives.

It's a beautiful way of telling the story. She's trying to convey the facts as best she understands them, but she doesn't try to apologize for her own weakness. And by doing so, we the reader can't judge her as weak or repressed or anything else. This is such a difference from "What Molly Knew," where Molly does offer us an excuse for her behavior, but that excuse rings false as it is not actually sufficient to justify her respective actions and inactions.

Nola has been denied agency on all sides, by her husband,  by her mistress, and finally by that dog, who won't even let her go to the supermarket without making a complete nuisance of itself. But Nola is not passive; she accepts that these forces have made her who she is, and fighting them would be like fighting the tides themselves.


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2 Responses to “ Caine Prize: "The Mistress's Dog" by David Medalie ”

  1. I agree that this is the best of the five stories-it will be very interesting to see who wins-do you intend to post on the 12 work shop stories?

  2. Sorry Mel, like matt, I have been putting off a lot of other reading that I need to catch up on! Though I'd love to blog with you on R.K. Narayan.


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