One nameless stray. Two fearless young women. A heroic fight for justice. It’s 1903, and Britain is desperate for change, but widespread calls for social and gender reform flounder against entrenched misogyny.
Navigating this world are best friends Lena Hageby and Eliza Blackwood – two thoroughly modern young women determined to live life on their own terms.
Rumours abound of barbaric experiments taking place within London’s medical schools, and when the women covertly witness a shockingly brutal procedure performed on a semi-conscious dog, they resolve to take down the perpetrator – renowned physiologist Dr William Bayling.
In their fight for justice, the women are drawn into an increasingly vicious ‘David and Goliath’ battle with an all-powerful male medical establishment who will stop at nothing to protect the status quo. But how much are the women prepared to risk? Their friendship, their loves, their freedom, even their lives?
Based on extraordinary true events that shook Edwardian society, Little Brown Dog is a tale simultaneously heart-breaking and heart-warming. Although a century has passed, it remains a strikingly modern parable of female bravery in speaking truth to power
A lyrical, accessible literary novel, which brings to life a series of intriguing historical events concerning the curiously intertwined battle for animal rights and women’s suffrage.
To be published 115 years to the day after the unveiling of the controversial, ill-fated memorial to a small dog in a London park.
For readers of Lucy Ribchester, Elizabeth MacNeal and Lissa Evans.
Market: literary fiction – ISBN: 9781912905430 – Price: £8.99
About the author
Paula is something of an accidental novelist. A scientist, with a PhD in climate chemistry, she has spent her career writing, educating, campaigning and fretting about the state of our planet.
Her late foray into fiction was down to a serendipitous encounter with an amateur historian at Battersea Arts Centre. The incredulous, but true, story he told, and the themes it portrays, stole her heart and became an obsession.
Hence Little Brown Dog was conceived. Paula is Welsh born and bred and now lives in London with her partner and a menagerie of rescue animals.
little brown dog is a novel with so many layers. What starts as two women meeting over a debate against animal cruelty soon escalates into a campaign against the mistreatment of animals in the name of science. The medical profession claim their actions are humane and that without such experiments then human lives will continue to suffer from a myriad of disease and illness.
It is only when the two heroines of the story disguise themselves as men to see for themselves what happens “under the knife” that the true brutality is exposed. Shocked to their core at what they have witnessed, Lena and Eliza cannot sit back and allow the status quo to continue. So, it is with the support of a renowned and outspoken barrister, Coleridge, they are able to take on the might of the male-dominated perpetrators. Note this is all set when women have finally been allowed to enter medical school yet do not have the right to vote. As suffragists are still campaigning, the voices of women in general are derided and mocked by society, however, the animal cruelty element brings Lena and Eliza much-needed support.
Coleridge does not hold back, he has no fear of the leading doctor against whom the women are making their complaint. Such is his contempt for Dr Bayling, that he out and out accuses him of negligence. A court case beckons and support for the cause intensifies amongst the locals of Battersea.
Without spoiling the story regarding the court case, the ladies also feel compelled to pay tribute to the little brown dog in the hope that no other animal suffers in such a manner again. A beautiful statue is erected, but it is to be a bone of contention; it faces abuse and destruction for years to come.
This is a time of great societal change and, for some, the statue is simply the tip of the iceberg, a monument to something they cannot ignore. The fighting accelerates, to the point that even mild-mannered Eliza finds her patience tested to the ultimate degree.
Political and societal change is at a peak here, and reactions are extreme to the point of violence. Yet little brown dog is a story of friendship, love and betrayal, trust, and consideration for other species as well as other humans. It has so many layers, each one peeled back with a delicate touch that nonetheless packs a punch. Blending history with emotion, fact with fiction, and injustice with justice, little brown dog shows how easy it is for egos to fracture, for tempers to fray and for pain to be inflicted in the name of self-preservation. It’s a heart-warming and heart-breaking story in equal measures, rendered all the sadder for the fact that time and again – even now – those with power still overreach. Nonetheless, it inspires how that change is possible.
I enjoyed reading this – it was hard at times to read due to the nature of the cruelty it seeks to banish, but it had so many points of high emotion, both positive and negative but all so very memorable.