I didn’t like Stella Gale when I first met her in Nancy Kent’s first novel, Stella Gale: A Rare Breed. She is brash and self-absorbed, repetitive, with a classic white trash vocabulary that does little to endear. I read a few pages, and then put it down.
A couple of years later, my old friend Mary, who is Nancy’s wife, got in touch with me to say they would be visiting later in the year. So, with a great sigh of duty, I dug Stella out once more and began again.
This time I came close to loving her. Who knows how that happens or what changed in the intervening months, but I had a hard time closing my Kindle each night until I had finished.
Stella Gale: A Rare Breed tells the eponymous story of a woman of many talents who, at this stage in her life, has chosen to enter the crazy world of raising purebred dogs for show. Or rather, purebred Dogues. These are the enormous, big-headed Dogue de Bordeaux , a breed from which Kent herself has bred an international champion. I met a couple of them in her kennel when I visited there a few years back. Lovely, big and big-hearted dogs.
Stella’s sidekicks, Annie and Bobby, are both her salvation and ours, as their growth throughout the novel overtakes our fascination with Stella Gale, herself. Scenes at a Dogue Show will have you rolling on the ground laughing and aghast that human beings would behave this way – then reflecting on our current political situation realize that of course they do.
Stella’s world is one we might hesitate to enter, but once inside our curiosity gets the better of us and, against some of our better inclinations, impels us to stay with the story until it is told.
The Dogues (Big Bertha, Amazing Grace, Ivan the Terrible, and Oz) will see you through.