Oxford University Press
Illustrated by William Stobbs
This was a very evocative read for me. I picked it up in an antique shop in Lewes and was attracted by the wonderful illustrations.
Picture books were so important to me as a child, as I guess they are to most children. Although, I think that as I had fewer books than children tend to nowadays, they took on a special significance. I remember that I had a fairy tale collection and a nursery rhyme book, which had belonged to my mother, that I would spend hours looking at; quite literally immersing myself in their world and imagining myself as part of the stories.
However, I’m quite glad that I didn’t have Kashtanka as a child, beautiful as it is. The story is well written and engaging, but the message of it is very odd indeed. It has a typical Chekhov air of melancholy and one of the characters dies, but more strangely, its lesson seems to be that one should be loyal to one’s family, even if they are abusive!
There is something so masochistic about the dog Kashtanka’s loyalty to her original violent and neglectful owner, that it made me feel quite sick.
I’d be really interested if anyone could shed some light on this – does it reflect attitudes of the time it was written? It seems almost like a fable and yet its moral is one that I found quite disturbing.
This article in The Guardian may prove illuminating.