There are two things which make the narrator of Tomorrow one of the most unusual I have ever encountered. One is that he is over two hundred years old. The other is that he is a dog. We all know how loyal dogs can be, but this dog takes his loyalty to exceptional levels. Having been separated from his master, the chemist Valentyne, in 1688, our narrator has spent two centuries sitting patiently outside the church in Venice where they parted.
“If we lose one another,” Valentyne had told him, “wait for me on the steps. Just here, by the door.” The dog has no doubt that he and Valentyne will be reunited one day and so he sits obediently by the door and waits. Then, one day in 1815, he catches a glimpse of Vilder, a man whose path has crossed many times with Valentyne’s…and he sets off in pursuit, sure that this is the clue which will lead him to his master.
Tomorrow is a book that raises questions immediately. What has happened to Valentyne? How have he and his dog lived for so many years? Who is Vilder and what is his connection with Valentyne? All of these questions are answered eventually, as the story moves backwards and forwards in time, alternating between the dog’s search for his master in 19th century Venice and his memories of their early days travelling Europe together.
Their adventures take them from 17th century London to the court of Versailles and the battlefield of Waterloo and along the way they meet kings and queens, famous poets and musicians and great military leaders. Valentyne falls in love and the dog forms some special relationships too – with Sporco, a puppy he finds abandoned in Venice, and with a female dog called Blaise. However, this is where they discover that living forever is not much fun when it means having to watch your loved ones grow old and die.
I do like the idea of writing from the point of view of a canine narrator and I can appreciate both the opportunities this must give an author and also the restrictions. The dog in Tomorrow is a real dog, despite his apparent immortality – he is not a magical, talking dog and although he listens and reports on the human conversations around him he cannot take part himself. On the other hand, he is so intelligent and his internal thought processes and logic feel so human that there were times when I could almost forget that he was a dog. I’m not sure that I found all of this entirely successful, but it was certainly imaginative and different.
Finally, in case you’re wondering, the dog does have a name but I haven’t mentioned it here as it is only revealed near the end of the book and I thought it was a nice surprise!
Thanks to Michael Joseph for providing a copy of this book for review via NetGalley.