The Last Family in England

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9780099468455: The Last Family in England

An original and fun first novel destined for cult success.

Meet the Hunters: Adam, a teacher, his wife Kate, and their teenage children Hal and Charlotte. But it is Prince, the family’s black Labrador, who is the narrator and protagonist of this tale.

An earnest young dog, Prince strives hard to live up to the tenets of the Labrador Pact: “Duty Over All” — that duty being to serve and protect their Family at any cost. Other dogs, led by the Springer Spaniels, have revolted. (Their slogans are “Dogs for Dogs, not for Humans” and “Pleasure not Duty.”) Prince takes his responsibilities seriously, but as things begin to go awry in the Hunter family, they threaten to overwhelm him. It all starts when a new couple moves into the house overlooking the park. Soon Adam is besotted with Emily, while her husband Simon seems to have played a significant part in Kate’s past. Young Hal is tripping on acid with his rowdy friends, while Charlotte is having boyfriend problems and tries to end it all with an overdose. And down in the park, it’s even worse: Henry the elderly Lab has disappeared; Emily’s dog Falstaff wants to lead Prince astray; has Lear the Rottweiler killed Joyce the Irish Wolfhound? In the end, Prince is forced to break the Labrador Pact and take desperate action to save his Family.

The Last Family in England is funny, sad, quirky and — incidentally — a clever reworking of Henry IV Part II.

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About the Author:

Matt Haig was born in Sheffield in 1975. His writing has appeared in the Guardian, the Sunday Times, the Independent, and the Sydney Morning Herald.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

talk

Dogs like to talk.

We are talking all the time, non-stop. To each other, to humans, to ourselves. Talk, talk, talk. Of course, we do not talk like humans. We do not open our mouths and say things the way humans do. We cannot. We see the harm this causes. We know words, we understand everything, we have language, but our language is one which is continuous, one which does not stop when we decide to close our jaws. During every sniff, every bark, every crotch nuzzle, every spray of a lamppost, we are speaking our minds.

So if you want the truth, ask the dog.

Not that humans always hear us. Not that they always think we would have anything worthwhile to say. They command, we listen. Sit. Stay. Walkies. Here. Fetch. That is all the conversation we are allowed. All that most humans can cope with.

But we are not deterred. I mean, other breeds may get pretty pissed off about the situation and sometimes have to resort to a language humans can understand. As for the Labradors, we are willing to wait. And besides, we get to learn more this way. We get to sit and listen to it all. We hear the lies and smell the truth. Especially in Families.

After all, who but the dog knows the whole picture? Who but the dog can sit and watch reality unfold behind each bedroom door? The role play in front of the mirror, the whimpers under the duvet, the never-ending interrogation of their hairless bodies? We are the only witnesses.

And we are there when they are ready to pour out their hearts. When they are ready to reveal their unspoken loves.

We are always there. Listening to everything and talking our silent words of comfort.

normal

When I woke up this morning it was as if nothing had happened.

For those first few hazy moments I felt almost normal, the way I used to feel, before the Hunters had come under threat. But as the empty shoes by the back door slowly slipped into focus, a wave of nausea passed over me. Everything came back. Most of all, the pungent taste of blood returned to my throat, and I craved the time when I didn’t realise exactly what it cost to keep the Family safe.

Then, following the fear, there was a strange sense of relief as I remembered what was going to happen today.

As I remembered I was going to die.

pleasure

We are on the pavement outside Nice Mister Vet’s when Adam crouches down next to me.

‘I’m sorry, Prince,’ he says, his hand resting on my collar. ‘This is all my fault.’

I try to tell him that everything, in fact, is down to me. But of course, he doesn’t understand. He pushes the door open and everyone looks around as the bell goes. Adam walks towards the desk, but no one is there. While we wait, I feel the attention of every other dog, marking my scent.

I can smell another Labrador, behind me, but I don’t turn to look. Instead, I glance quickly at those dogs sitting with their masters along the far wall. A three-legged Alsatian. A border collie, biting air. An Old English sheepdog, laughing to himself from behind a shaggy veil of white hair. There is a cat too, hissing from behind her cage door.

Surely nobody can know why I am here; it is too early.

Another scent floats over towards me, sick-sweet perfume.

The woman behind the desk is now here, although I cannot see her.

‘It’s er, Mister Hunter,’ Adam says, before gesturing to me. ‘With Prince. We’re due at half nine.’

The woman flicks through pages. ‘Mister Hunter. Nine thirt–’ She stops suddenly, and leans over her desk to get a closer look. Her face is a vast expanse of hairless flesh, painted orange. ‘Shouldn’t he have a muzzle?’ The voice is now tight with anxiety.

‘He’s fine,’ Adam says, offering a weak smile to some of the other humans in the room. ‘He’s been here before and there’s never been a problem. He’s always been . . . a good dog.’

There is a silence. But it is not really a silence at all, because sounds of pain and distress are making their way from the next room.

‘We have a muzzle here,’ says the woman.

‘Oh.’ I sense he wants to defend me further, but doesn’t know how.

‘Only it’s the policy, you know, for dangerous dogs.’

‘Um, OK.’

She hands Adam the muzzle and he crouches down again, this time offering no sympathy. I don’t blame him though. Not at all. He will never be able to comprehend any of this.

The muzzle is tight around my nose and blocks out smell.

‘Right,’ Adam says. ‘Come on, boy.’ I can sense that he is close to tears, but he is just about holding himself together.

He sits down in the only available chair, placing me directly next to the Labrador whose scent I had picked up before. I can tell she is young, younger than me, and that she is not seriously ill.

‘Duty over all,’ she says, sniffing the side of my face.

‘Duty over all,’ I sniff back, through the muzzle, hoping for no further interaction.

She sniffs me some more, then sits back down. ‘You’re the one,’ she says. ‘Aren’t you?’

‘I don’t understand,’ I tell her, although I am worried that I do.

She looks around, to check none of the other dogs are listening: ‘You’re the one who broke the Labrador Pact.’

I swallow. I want to lie to her. I am going to lie to her. But she will realise I am lying and then there will be more questions. And there are a lot of other animals here, holding up my death. The interrogation could go on for ever.

So I tell her the truth. I tell her: ‘Yes, I am.’

I look at her face. She looks as though someone has just yanked her tail.

‘Why? What made you do it?’

‘It’s a long –’ Before I have time to finish, the door opens. The bell rings. It’s a Springer spaniel, yanking his master forward.

The moment he spots me, his nose twitches. Smelling my guilt he starts to bark: ‘It’s him! It’s him!’

His master tries to calm him down. ‘Shush, Murdoch! Shush!’

But of course, Murdoch pays no notice and carries on barking. ‘It’s him! It’s him! The one who broke the Labrador Pact!’

The other dogs are now joining in.

‘It’s him!’ barks the three-legged Alsatian.

‘It’s him!’ yaps the border collie.

‘It’s him!’ chuckles the Old English sheepdog.

Murdoch is now playing to the crowd. ‘The Labradors are in crisis! The Pact is a joke! Dogs for dogs, not for humans!’ He starts to choke on his collar. ‘Pleasure not duty!’

‘Pleasure not duty!’

‘Pleasure not duty!’

‘Pleasure not duty!’

The cat is circling her cage in fright, hissing more violently than before.

‘Could everyone please keep their pets under control!’ says the woman behind the desk. But despite the efforts of the humans, the barking just gets louder.

‘Can’t you see?’ says the Labrador next to me. ‘Can’t you see what you’ve done? The Springers will think they’ve won! Labradors will start to lose faith! There will be anarchy!’

As if to illustrate her point, Murdoch slips his lead, jumps up onto the desk and starts licking the paint from the woman’s orange face.

‘I’m sorry, I never meant to betray the Pact,’ I say, as much to myself as my fellow Labrador. ‘But there was no other way.’

‘No other way?’

‘The Pact wasn’t enough.’ I turn and look at her and then at Adam, who is attempting to shield my ears from the noise.

‘But why?’ Although she is inevitably upset by my blasphemy, I can see she genuinely wants to understand. And, as the noise and chaos continue around us, I realise for the first time that there may still be hope for the humans.

With that thought in mind, I begin to answer her question.

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Book Description Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom, 2005. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. By the author of Reasons to Stay Alive Meet the Hunter family: Adam, Kate, and their children Hal and Charlotte. And Prince, their black Labrador. Prince is an earnest young dog, striving hard to live up to the tenets of the Labrador Pact (Remain Loyal to Your Human Masters, Serve and Protect Your Family at Any Cost). Other dogs, led by the Springer Spaniels, have revolted. Their slogans are Dogs for Dogs, not for Humans and Pleasure not Duty . Mentored by an elderly Labrador called Henry, Prince takes his responsibilities seriously, and as things in the Hunter family begin to go badly awry - marital breakdown, rowdy teenage parties, attempted suicide - his responsibilities threaten to overwhelm him. And down in the park it s even worse: Henry has disappeared; Falstaff the Springer Spaniel wants to lead Prince astray; Joyce the Irish wolfhound has been murdered. In the end Prince is forced to break the Labrador Pact and take desperate action to save his Family. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780099468455

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Book Description Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom, 2005. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. By the author of Reasons to Stay Alive Meet the Hunter family: Adam, Kate, and their children Hal and Charlotte. And Prince, their black Labrador. Prince is an earnest young dog, striving hard to live up to the tenets of the Labrador Pact (Remain Loyal to Your Human Masters, Serve and Protect Your Family at Any Cost). Other dogs, led by the Springer Spaniels, have revolted. Their slogans are Dogs for Dogs, not for Humans and Pleasure not Duty . Mentored by an elderly Labrador called Henry, Prince takes his responsibilities seriously, and as things in the Hunter family begin to go badly awry - marital breakdown, rowdy teenage parties, attempted suicide - his responsibilities threaten to overwhelm him. And down in the park it s even worse: Henry has disappeared; Falstaff the Springer Spaniel wants to lead Prince astray; Joyce the Irish wolfhound has been murdered. In the end Prince is forced to break the Labrador Pact and take desperate action to save his Family. Bookseller Inventory # AAZ9780099468455

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Book Description Vintage, 2005. Book Condition: New. A reworking of "Henry IV Part II, this is the story of the Hunter family: Adam, a teacher, his wife Kate, and their children Hal, seventeen, and Charlotte, thirteen. And Prince, their black Labrador. It's Prince who is the narrator and protagonist of this tale. Num Pages: 352 pages. BIC Classification: FA. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 198 x 129 x 23. Weight in Grams: 250. . 2005. New Ed. Paperback. . . . . Bookseller Inventory # V9780099468455

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