Review Blog

Jul 31 2014

Only the animals by Ceridwen Dovey

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Hamish Hamilton, 2014. ISBN 9781926428581.
Recommended for discerning readers - older students and adults. This is possibly one of the most unusual and intriguing books I've ever read. It is a collection of short stories told from the point of view of various animals recounting their interactions with humans. Ten different animals from mussel to elephant to tortoise reveal the best and worst of their human 'owners'.
For example, imagine for a moment that you are a tortoise - the type kept as backyard pets - quite often in British or European gardens. And then, further, imagine that you as the tortoise, move next door and find that you are now the tortoise of Leo Tolstoy's family home. Tolstoy you say? Yes indeed, and after a time, carved into your shell the great man's words 'I love many things, I love all people'. And then, even later, you - the tortoise - are packed up and sent to one Virginia Woolf in England. Virginia loved animals and kept quite a menagerie as a young girl. Delighted with the receipt of this interesting animal, Virginia speaks often about the book she is writing about Elizabeth Browning and her little companion dog Flush. And then following the London Blitz, you - this extraordinary tortoise, come to live with George Orwell and observe him working on his novel 'Animal Farm: a fairy story'.
This book has been described as 'playful and poignant' and so I found it. I loved the Jack Kerouac style mussel story particularly!
For those of us who believe that all sentient beings have a meaningful life, it is a truly enlightening read.
Not for your average reader - but for those who are looking for something quite unique and thought-provoking this is indeed a worthwhile escape into another world.
Sue Warren

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