*Note there are spoilers in this review, but they won’t spoil your enjoyment of this phenomenal piece of children’s literature*
If ever a book could be a party trick, this is mine. I wheel out this story during awkward lulls in conversations and it’s a surefire crowd pleaser. Picture the scene, you’re sipping on a glass of now lukewarm white wine and conversation is dying out. You turn to your nearest and dearest and remark:
Did you know there’s a sequel to One Hundred and One Dalmatians?
They will of course respond with ‘why yes I hated that film’ or perhaps ‘Patch’s london adventure is amazing.’ You can now shake your head superciliously and tut at how superior your knowledge of mid 20th century children’s books is.
No no dear friend. There is a written sequel, produced by Dodie Smith eleven years after the first one was published! What’s it about you ask? Oh it’s a normal tale (pun intended) where the dalmatians and all other dogs wake to discover that the humans are all unwakeable and the dogs have some kind of ‘superpowers.’ Since their worried about what’s going on they head to London to consult with the dog parliament to work out what’s going on.
At which point, as I have found, some people slowly take the glass of wine away from you.
But I swear this is all true. I blame the sci-fi element on the changes that were happening in the late sixties with the space race, moon landings around the corner and so on.
My Fiancé actually purchased me a new copy of this book for christmas since I had lost my old copy and I needed a way of convincing people that I was telling the truth. Because it is a mad plot, which when you think about it, is similar to the first book, there was no reason any of those things could have happened. But the dog superpowers do take the cake in this instance.
But the real question is…is this book worth reading?
I’d say, if only so that you can tell other people about it – yes. But it’s also a fun read, it won’t take you very long, it’s written for children after all, and it’s nice to revisit our favourite characters, with some of them having made unexpected life choices in the interim between the two books. Dodie Smith is a great writer, even if the plot of the Starlight Barking is…well barking.
I should add, if you’ve never taken the time to sit down and read the original One Hundred and One Dalmatians, you really should. It’s so much better than the films (even though it doesn’t have the Cruella De Vil song you can sing it to yourself the whole time you’re reading it), and you get a far better sense of the relationship between Pongo and Missus. It is from the fifties so you’re going to run into some…outdated ideas. But if you’re willing to contextualise those you’ll still have a fun time.