A Dog’s Tale by Mark Twain: A Book Review

Can you name one book that you love with all your heart and would not mind recommending it to any one, regular readers or not? For me it would be A Dog’s Tale by Mark Twain. Care to read why I love it so much? Read on.

Have you read A Dog's Tale by Mark Twain? What is your favorite classic short story? What other books with pets that you loved reading? Let us chat. Share on X

About A Dog’s Tale

A Dog's Tale by Mark Twain: A Book Review Cover

Title: A Dog’s Tale

Author: Mark Twain

Genre: Fiction – Classics

Setting: The USA, 1995

Plot Summary of A Dog’s Tale

Aileen Mavourneen has a St. Bernard for his dad and Collie for his mom and he is a Presbyterian according to his mom. Yes, she is the pup that we all want around – the high energy, chirpy, loyal and happy pup. The story takes us through her life as a pup to being a mom and eventually her death.

She learns and lives according to her mom’s advises, after she was given for adoption. She is loved by her new family and their servants. One fateful night she rescues the infant from fire and misunderstood by the dad that she hurt the baby, who hurts Aileen’s leg injuring permanently.

Once her heroic deed is recognized by the family, she becomes the pride of the house and shown off to every visitor. Ironically, whenever someone enquires about her limp, the family turns silent and never accepting the dad’s mistake in judgement. Eventually Aileen becomes a mother and the puppy grows up with the same love and affection from the family that Aileen does.

The dad invites his other scientist friends over, while his family leaves on a holiday. The friends conduct an experiment on Aileen’s pup, killing it. Aileen doesn’t understand what had happened but thinks her kid would grow up from where he was buried, just like the seed the family planted in the garden. She dies due to the disappointment of losing her pup.

Book review of A Dog’s Tale

The short story is so well written that I can relate the characters (dogs or not) to people from real life – be it, Aileen or Aileen’s mother or the family members. I loved the confidence and drive to be better in Aileen’s mother, and I could actually visualize people who make up words on the go and make a stand that they were true just like her.

Yes Aileen was a Presbyterian according to her. But hey, she brought up her pup alright.

Things that worked out for me

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead. – Mark Twain.

Now Mark Twain is the writer who stood by his words. In just 52 pages, he conveyed all he had to say and stole my heart just the way only he can. (In fact, he makes me abandon the thought that “I will be able to write, someday”).

He pointed out the extremities between the thoughtlessness cruelty and selfishness of men and the pure love, trust and loyalty of the animals towards humans. I might be giving it too much thought, but just hear me out, I couldn’t help but to think the author showed us all that is right and fair in the world through Aileen and that’s not with the inhumane humans.

I hated the dad to the core – yes I am over reacting. But you know what, the world is filled with ‘the dad’s. They are thoughtless, ready to jump onto their guns, selfish and they never acknowledge their mistakes. And we are supposed to accept that because ‘such is the human nature!’, I hear.

Things that didn’t work for me

Usually I have a paragraph to write on things I didn’t like in the book, but I just could not find any. Yeah I can hear you saying “Gal, you are dealing with Mark Twain here, and you think you can find out something that you don”t like”.

But if you know me, I will always find a thing or two to crib about most books. Right, I didn’t find any and in fact I am going to defend the writer. There are readers who find the ending upsetting – it is but I think life is upsetting as well.

And some reading into wiki shows Twain was an animal lover as well and he republished the story to support Anti-Vivisection Law (which stands against experimentation on animals and animal cruelty on the whole) in 1920s. So haters, hold it right there.

My thoughts in general

On a personal note, coming from a dog loving family which had more than its fair share of dogs in the past 3 decades, I couldn’t stop comparing Aileen to every one of the doggies we had had. I remembered our Sheeba for the happy go lucky puppy she was, or Whitey (my first dog) who jumped from the sun shade of our portico to catch a thief (or so I have heard).

Oh how could I forget the day when I had to help my dad bury Caeser and then go to school as if nothing had happened, knowing well that I won’t be seeing him that evening when I returned. Thank you A Dog’s Tale for bringing back all these bittersweet memories.

Bottom line

If you are an animal lover looking for a short read, look no further A Dog’s Tale is for you. Even if you are not an animal lover (gasp!) you will like this one anyway!

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Let us talk

Have you read A Dog’s Tale by Mark Twain? What is your favorite classic short story? What other books with pets that you loved reading? Let us chat.


  1. Gayathri Lakshminarayanan

    Thanks Laya for your kind words 🙂 Good to reconnect with you after all these years 🙂

  2. Laya Rajagopalan

    I am not much of reader. Nor do I know any of the authors you review. Being an old friend of yours all I can do is just to read your reviews and be blown away by your writing skills. But in future if I read that will be only because of you.


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Gayathri has been reviewing books since 2010. When she is not reading books or creating online content, she works as a writer and a digital marketer. Head over to meet me!