The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe

At the beginning of the 1960s Marilyn Monroe is, writes John Banville in the Guardian, ‘horribly famous’, but she is also vulnerable and alone, divorcing from Arthur Miller and starring in her last film. She is given a dog, Mafia Honey, by Frank Sinatra, and The Life and Opinions of Maf is Maf’s picaresque take on her final years. Maf’s story begins at the Bloomsbury group retreat Charleston, ‘a perfect haunt of light and invention’, and as with Virginia Woolf’s Flush, we are shown the world through disarmingly eloquent canine eyes and words, and come to know Marilyn thanks to the kind of devoted witness only a very talkative, well-read and faithful dog can provide. O’Hagan’s title hints at the book’s affinity with the great 18th Century shaggy dog stories, particularly Sterne’s Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, with which it shares a digressive combination of high culture and low humour. ‘Andrew O’Hagan has taken on the voice of a dog to write a subtle, funny and moving study of America on the eve of one of its periods of greatest crisis’, adds Banville, ‘Maf the Dog, like Lolita, like The Great Gatsby, is a threnody for lost innocence.’

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