Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 2 Jul 2019

Member Reviews

I don't think I was prepared for the brutality of this book. That's completely on me, and I wouldn't rate the book down because of it, but it definitely isn't a book to enjoy. Appreciate, perhaps, and learn from, but not enjoy. Read it if you can stand it, but it's not one I'll be coming back to.
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Tricky: Trixy by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps
I admit that when I first saw this book posted on Netgalley since I was at bit of a loose end I decided to take it on as a sort of challenge. Trixy is a novel first published in 1904 and this, obviously, is a re-edition with an academic purpose which is in part to rehabilitate Elizabeth Stuart Phelps and also take another critical look at the development of the animal rights movement. But for me the question was, could I finish it?

Professional ReaderEventually the answer was "Yes", but not without a long hiatus in the middle in which I read a few other books which were more to my taste. The problem with Trixy is that it is very much of its age, it is melodramatic, over-sweet and has some very dense patches of purple prose, at crucial stages it also elides certain information by openly stating something along the lines of "I cannot describe this , it will be too hard on my readers" which I found patronising and somewhat insulting.

The first problem I had was with the heroine, who is not Trixy (Trixy is actually a little white poodle), but a very tenderhearted young lady of some means. She is a very stereotypical character which very few novels would get away with today. She is the amiable landlady of a bunch of 'umble tenants who for some reason that escapes me, love her to bits, oh, sorry that's right, they love her because she's so kind! Among her tenants is a frail crippled lad who is Trixy's owner as a way of making some sort of living he has taught the poodle to perform some tricks. This young lady is also courted by two gentlemen, one is a doctor and the other is a lawyer.

In a fairly novel approach, which is a former lawyer I cannot but applaud, the doctor turns out to be a baddie and the lawyer a goodie. For the simple reason that the doctor is a vivisectionist. At a crucial point, Trixy disappears, and well... You'll have to read the book as I did.

Apart from the melodrama the purple prose the hackneyed plot, this novel does have some redeeming features, that is a very good study of the coarsening of some members of the medical profession. I've had quite a few illnesses of my own in my time and therefore I've met many doctors physicians and nurses, most were fairly nice human beings, some were superb, and others, how shall I put it? Didn't seem to give a fuck. Phelps portrays this very well and in my view rightly attributes this deficiency to two main causes, the first being that some members of the medical profession are not very nice people to begin with and have joined the profession as a means of enhancing their status, exercising power or even giving free rein to their sadistic impulses. The second, and most original approach in my view, is that they have been bent and twisted and rendered indifferent by having too much power over animals and people. This group started off well, but had to harden itself in order to progress and have lost touch with an important part of their humanity.

For me this insight seems to be more valuable than the author's all encompassing anti-vivisectionist stance. At some point in the book she hints that she is condemning only unnecessary vivisection... But it doesn't seem to me that she modulates this. I am a pet owner I love animals but that is not the same as failing to recognise that in many instances experimenting on animals has helped medicine progress, indeed this is an argument that she puts in the mouths of one of her doctor characters but she actually only does so to discredit it.

There are some good scenes in this novel, one in particular I think will always stick in my mind. And as I said above it is in some ways very perceptive, but I am not sure that overall these two traits overcome the setback of what is a very dated text.
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This is a book written by a great advocate against the vivisection of live animals.the stories in here are heartbreaking. 
Pets, animals that had homes and families that loved them were stolen and used for experiments. They were cut and mutilated. Some lived, most did not. All this was done in the name of science. 
Trixie was a wonderful little dog. A performer, she could dance and sing and interact with a crowd. Most importantly she was the pet of her owner, Dan. They did everything together. Homeless, they earned money from the performances they put on to live. Then, one day she disappeared. She was found in the nick of time, tied to a table, ready to be eviscerated. She was rescued, but the twinkle in her eye was gone forever. She knew that most men could not be trusted.
I loved this book. I cried over the stories. Definitely worth reading as a whole different perspective is set before us.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to read this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The sun struggled to enter the windows of the lecture-room.

This book was originally written in the early 1900s as an outcry to abolish vivisection of animals in medical schools. Although the writing and conversations are outdated, it sends the strong message that Mrs. Phelps intended.

Olin Steele is a 21 year old medical student. One day another student brings in a beautiful kitten with a pink ribbon around its neck that Olin is immediately smitten with. Much to his horror, the kitten becomes the lesson for the day. He leaves the lecture and runs home vowing to never return. Of course he does return to school and becomes one of the professors that performs experiments on animals.

Miriam Lauriat is a lady in every sense of the word. Miss Lauriat has befriended a lad, Dan, who has a French poodle named Trixy. Trixy  is trained to perform. She is very intelligent and helps Dan earn money.

Steele meets Miriam by chance and becomes infatuated with her. His courtship is dignified and slow. He intends to marry her until Trixy goes missing. It is during the search for Trixie that Miriam discovers that Steele is involved in vivisection, something she abhors. 

This was a quick easy read even with the dated writing. I started crying at the beginning of the book with the kitten and kept it up most of the book. I'm in the medical field and understand the need for research but vivisection was an awful technique. There is an extensive foreword with lots of information about Mrs. Phelps and her work with the Anti-vivisection campaign. It also includes a story from Mark Twain who was a friend of Mrs. Phelps. Although not for the faint of heart, I would recommend this book highly. 

A rare 5 stars from me!
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