Jamaica Magazine

Book Review: Dog-Heart

Told in two voices, educated Jamaican English and the nation-language of the people, this dramatic novel tells the story of a well-meaning, middle-class woman and a young boy from the ghetto whom she desperately wants to help. Alternating between the perspectives of the woman and the boy, the story engages with issues of race and class, examines the complexities of relationships between people of very different backgrounds, and explores the difficulties faced by individuals seeking to bring about social change through their own actions. The dramatic climax and tragic choices made grow from the gulf of incomprehension between middle-class and poor Jamaicans and provide penetrating insights into the roots of violence in impoverished communities.


Annie Paul, University of the West Indies, Mona
“Dog-Heart” is an uncompromising story imaginatively told; it is a tale of the class imbalance of postcolonial societies, of how vast the gap is between those damned by the (Babylon) system and kept outside and those who reside comfortably inside. The expendability of life in the ghetto and the perpetual injustice meted out to its inhabitants by the state and so-called civil society lie at the heart of this tale of postcolonial darkness…McCaulay, who wrote a weekly column in the country’s leading newspaper for many years, showcases her formidable writing skills in this ambitious, heart-breaking work to excellent effect…the mirror McCaulay relentlessly holds up doesn’t let anyone off the hook, least of all those who read this book without flinching.”

2008 Judges’ report, Jamaica Cultural Development Commission’s Creative Writing Competition
“This is a haunting and moving story of the divide between those who have and those who do not and the difficulties of reaching across that divide.  The writer gives us a sensitive portrayal of the complexities of race and class in Jamaica…as she explores one woman’s attempt to make a difference in the life of a young man from a disadvantaged community.”

Vicky (Amazon.com)
A powerful book, thoughtfully written with details about all sides of life in Kingston. The book is beautifully written. The author has her pulse on the details of what life is like for impoverished families and children living in a Kingston ghetto, as well as on the attitudes held by many who live lives of privilege there. The book contains a great deal of patois; more than might be comfortable for the average American or British speaker of English, and less than make it completely accurate for one who knows the dialect. But, if you can, persevere. It’s definitely worth it.

Diana McCaulay, former newspaper columnist and well-known environmental activist in Jamaica, has turned a new page in her career with the 2010 release of her first novel Dog-Heart. Published by Peepal Tree Press, which has a reputation for publishing works of excellence by Caribbean writers like Kwame Dawes and Jan Carew, Dog Heart is a stunning new book that leaves you wondering what else this writer is capable of.

Diana McCaulay is presently the Chief Executive Officer of the Jamaica Environment Trust, and is an outspoken advocate for Jamaica’s natural environment. She also wrote a popular opinion column for the Gleaner newspaper chain for many years and her short stories have been published by the journal Caribbean Writer. She writes a blog called SnailWriter at www.dianamccaulay.com. She will also receive an award at the Jamaican Amazing Woman Awards Ceremony in May 2010.

Dog Heart“  is available online at Amazon.com

About the author

Staff Writer