Top review: Lily and the Octopus

When screenwriter Steven Rowley’s daschund died, he wrote a novel in 100 days to vent his grief. Lily and the Octopus is the result, reviewed here by our editorial assistant, Angus.


Lily and the Octopus
Steven Rowley

On Thursdays, 42-year-old Ted and his dog Lily talk about boys they think are cute. Ted fawns over Ryan Gosling and Lily scandalously suggests Chris Pratt. Friday is therapy day. Ted endures an hour in an overlit office, drifting off and craving cookies as his feckless shrink attempts to understand why he and his partner of six years, Jeffrey, split up.

Fridays nights are for Monopoly and Saturdays are for movies. On Sundays they eat pizza. Monday is for appointments and on Tuesdays, Ted reluctantly leaves Lily dozing in the afternoon sun and battles through the LA traffic to meet his best friend, Trent, who is preferably waiting for him at their favourite restaurant with two chilled martinis. This routine has worked fine since Jeffrey left; Ted and his shrewd and sassy sausage dog are more than content together. Until a foul octopus affixes itself to Lily’s skull. How did Ted not notice it creeping into his living room? As his panic rises, the smug cephalopod grows larger and larger, taunting Ted as it tightens eight warty tentacles around the beloved dachshund’s head.

This book is as bizarre as it sounds, even absurdist at points, but never in a way that leaves you feeling alienated or confused. It’s a story that wriggles into your heart and nestles on your lap, and the concluding chapters are difficult to get through because you’re reading them through tears. Steven Rowley has created characters who are incredibly endearing despite their foibles, with a wit and waggishness that could easily stand up against The Rosie Project. A slightly experimental, fully hilarious and quirky story with doses of poignancy that spread warmly through your chest like shots of vodka.

Simon & Schuster rrp $29.99

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