Jill Baker – A Dog Called Harry

Hachette, Australia, 2020

One would expect an award-winning journalist to write well, and indeed we are not disappointed with Jill Baker’s engaging and moving book, A Dog Called Harry.

Jill’s comfortable and happy life as editor of major newspapers and magazines, married to George and living contentedly and healthily on a small farm, was suddenly brought to an end with two major life events – the sudden death of her husband due to an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm, quickly followed by her own diagnosis of breast cancer and subsequent chemotherapy treatment. She had well and truly lost her joy in life.

Jill Baker talks to Barbie about A Dog Called Harry

In the midst of this, Jill sets out to make sure there is an inquest into George’s death, not out of vengeance or to sue for money, but to understand what happened and what could be done to prevent it happening to others.

Her GP suggested she needed a dog – and along came Harry. Harry is a not so well behaved Cavoodle, whose antics managed to redirect Jill’s energies from introspection and sadness. He brought happiness to her soul, gave her someone to love and be loved by. And gave this story a happy ending!

This is an open and honest account of those challenging events in Jill’s life, the highs and lows, the humorous aspects and the grimness. The author’s easy conversational style makes it highly readable and the content is absorbing, somehow deeply connecting.

Jill certainly knows how to write and how to grip a reader, not just in the brevity of a newspaper article but chapter after chapter. We quickly become invested in her welfare and that of Harry. Their relationship, like all such intimacy, is, to some extent, a mystery to the observer, but we are delighted to be given some entrée into it.

 Jill’s honesty in describing her grief touches us immediately. Her clarity in describing her chemo treatment and its side effects will resonate with those who have experienced similarly and give a measure of understanding to those who have not. Her reflective musing on the inquest and how she was changed by it is a lesson in humility and compassion for our society.

Jill Baker’s book is full of common sense, humour, wisdom and kindness. Her frank revelations of herself endear her to the reader, and create a book which suggests a gentle and loving way of living with others and of passing through tribulation and grief to a place of greater self-awareness and peace.

Thank you to Hachette for sending me a review copy.