The Incredible Journey

By Sheila Burnford

Rating: 4 stars

I found this old, quite fragile copy of this book while rummaging around my favourite second hand bookstore (Voltaire and Rousseau, in Glasgow, thanks for asking). I’ve never actually read it before, nor have I seen the film, although I do know the basic plot. I enjoyed this story of two dogs and a rather dog-like cat who make a journey of several hundred miles from the person who’s looking after them while their actual family are are away in Europe, back to their home.

I hadn’t realised that Burnford didn’t fully anthropomorphise the animals – rather than talking to each other, she refers to their instincts and love of each other to guide us through the story. Some of the episodes on their travels are mundane, like passing park rangers, while others are just odd, and a little sad – like the elderly gent living by himself who invites them in for dinner, but we slowly realise that he’s got dementia.

Now, as much as I love Labradors, the young Lab who led the trio was stubborn and maybe not the best at leading. The old, good natured bull terrier was my favourite of the trio, and the firm friendship between him and the cat was beautiful – leading to a joyous final paragraph, to leave the book on a high.

A fairly quick read, and the prose is lovely, both in describing the landscape that the trio travel through and their actions and relationships. The illustrations, by Carl Burger, are also delightful – full page sized and detailed. It was just a shame I couldn’t view them as clearly as I wanted to, for fear the opening the book too wide would cause it to fall apart (I mentioned it was an old, fragile copy, right?).

Book details

Publisher: Bantam Pathfinder
Year of publication: 1965

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