Parents and pet owners have a certain tendency to overestimate the appeal of their loved ones to the general public. Mayle makes just such a miscalculation in his latest book, a slim memoir that seems an attempt to capitalize on the considerable goodwill he generated with the charming A Year in Provence. Those who judge a book by its cover are likely to be taken in by illustrator Ed Koren's winsome jacket drawing. But they should be advised that A Dog's Life is written from the point of view of the pooch. Abandoned a few days after birth by his biological mother, subsequently abandoned by his brutish adoptive dad, our canine hero is left to fend for himself in the French countryside.
Eagerly taken in by "Madame," who, it is safe to assume, is Mayle's wife, less eagerly embraced by her "other half," the dog—christened Boy (as in "what a good boy")—settles into a generally blissful existence. Blissful except for the fact that "the management" has some strange beliefs (a strong faith in hygiene), noisy friends and a ridiculous attachment to certain possessions.
Readers are treated to stories of colorful local characters and descriptions of lengthy meals, the stock in trade of the author's last three books. But because Boy is doing the talking here, the result is cloyingly coy. With A Dog's Life, Mayle is barking up the wrong tree. (Knopf, $20)