The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage

Now a major Netflix film starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Kirsten Dunst and nominated for 12 Oscars, The Power of the Dog is a dark tale of a small town in 1920s Montana, in which author Thomas Savage examines masculinity from the perspective of a deeply homophobic, but closeted, rancher. 

Thomas Savage
Book, The Power of the Dog, standing upright against a red background. The front cover includes a photograph of Benedict Cumberbatch.

The woman over there at the eat-joint had pushed three tables together so there was room for the whole bunch. She greeted George and Phil pleasantly enough, so her suicide husband mustn’t have tipped his hand about being taken by the scruff of the neck. Well, hell, what man would dare tell a woman a shameful thing like that? She had got out white napkins for each place, quite an experience, Phil thought, for the cowhands who had about as much use for napkins as for finger bowls. La-di-dah. Worth the price of admission to see what the fellows did with them. The place was kind of roadhousey, and Phil guessed that accounted for the candles she had in old wine bottles.

And the paper flowers, the paper flowers.

Phil would have preferred to have had the whole place to himself, just for the Burbank outfit, but over in one corner was a party of six that gawked at them when they entered. Phil always had hated strangers around gawking and whispering and touching their lips with their napkins as if they were ladies and gentlemen. One of the women was smoking a cigarette, bold as brass and twice as cheap, and my wasn’t she trying to look elegant touching her lips with her napkin, like real quality, and then smoking that cigarette! It was Phil’s opinion that a woman who would smoke in public would do anything. And she was. She was drinking. 

Over there, too, were paper flowers on the table, paper flowers in a bottle painted so it wouldn’t look like a milk bottle. 

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more