‘Tomorrow’ by Damian Dibben

Tomorrow

★★★★

Who does not want to read about an immortal dog? Especially as clever and brave a dog as Tomorrow? When we meet our canine protagonist, he has been waiting for his master in Venice for 127 years. His owner told him that if they were separated, they would meet up on the St. Marco steps, but his owner never came! Did he really abandon Tomorrow? The man was immortal himself, but is it possible that he somehow died? Tomorrow decides that the time of waiting has ended and the time of action has come. As the Napoleon Wars rage across Europe, Tomorrow wanders, searching for his best friend.

Tomorrow was given eternal life by his master, Valentyne, at some point in the late 1500s. Valentine was at that point a court physician and chemist, traveling between castles and palaces so as to learn from the brightest minds in Europe, and to spread his medical knowledge as well. Valentyne is perhaps not your typical immortal – he is not the extremely wealthy, handsome or athletically impressive. Actually, Valentine looks to be a about fifty, is a bit clumsy and becomes starstruck around famous actors and writers. Although he enjoys fine society, he prefers intellectuals to fashionable courtiers. He is the geeky chemist who discovered the elixir of immortality and absolutely cannot dance without stepping on everyone’s feet! And Valentyne has an innate kindness in him, exemplified by how he for decades travelled to the numerous battlefields of 17th century Europe to administer medical help to soldiers no matter their side in the conflicts. In some ways Valentyne actually reminded me of a dog: giddy with joy when he is happy, quite and withdrawn when sad and fiercely loyal to those he loves.

Valentine does have an enemy however. Another immortal who Tomorrow was at first enamored – the man seemed so elegant, handsome, powerful and eloquent at the Elizabethan court. But Tomorrow soon understands that there is enmity between Valentine and this other man – why the dog cannot understand. Could this mysterious other immortal be the cause of Valentyne’s disappearance? One day in 1815 this enemy shows up in Venice and Tomorrow decides that now is the time is to stop hoping for Valentyne to return, and take matters into his own paws. Along with Sporko, a stray with abandonment issues, Tomorrow follows his master’s enemy across Europe hoping to find Valentyne.

It would be unconsionable in the extreme – immoral even – to burden another living thing with a life with no plausible end. It would be a curse.

Unlike so many other canine protagonists in literature, Tomorrow does not idealize his master. Sure, he loves him, considers him his pack and appreciates many of his undeniably better qualities, but much of Tomorrows journey is about coming to terms with Valentine leaving him, with Valentine giving him immortality (for better and for worse) and with Valentine never allowing Tomorrow a dog’s life with a home, a hearth, a mate and puppies. Life with Valentine has not been an easy one, a life of constant rootlessness and encounters with death and misery. No wonder Tomorrow’s feelings towards his master are complicated.

And Didden clearly wants to explore what it takes from a person to cope with eternal life. Valentyne, Tomorrow and their mysterious enemy do not remain the same through their long lives, but are shaped by world events, by cultural changes and health problems. For instance, when tomorrow met the mystery guy for the first time in London, he was a glamourours and powerful man, but when they meet again in Venice, he is a drug addict and like Tomorrow ‘worn and unloved’. He is not longer a courtier or at the forefront of the enlightenment – but has fallen behind, unable to catch up with the changing times around him. It takes a rare creature, dog or human to sustain a healthy mind and body for as long as these people live.

‘A creature that shambles through life, noisy with everything and nothing, is at once curious and silent.’

Tomorrow was a fantastic hero. In Dibben’s world, dogs can talk and communicate effectively with each other, but Tomorrow stands apart in that he not only engages with the dog world, but comprehends human communication as well. Whereas other dogs only concern themselves with other the dog community, Tomorrow is keen to engage himself in human life.

Tomorrow’s journey was fun and every twist and turn unexpected. The book is well written, engaging and funny. I had a great time reading it!

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