Author: Emma Jane Unsworth

Finished on: 4 October 2015

Where did I get this book: I bought this for a friend a couple of years ago, and then borrowed it back.

Something strange has been happening recently. I have barely been reading. Only two books in the last two months.

I have been doing more writing of my own, which feels good, but there has been a dearth of good reading in my life. Which is not good. When I don’t read I feel less settled in myself; less grounded. And the stresses of life get me down more than usual. Time spent reading is important to my happiness and wellbeing, and I must prioritise it more highly. From today, this is my vow!

So, Animals… The book that took me one of those months to read.

I had read an enticing review which persuaded me to buy it for my friend for her birthday. It is a story of drunken exploits and irresponsible behaviour. Such as I may have indulged in myself many years ago (ok, maybe not many years… I absolutely did not stumble home at 1am covered in foliage following an al fresco loo stop on the way home from a ‘quick glass of wine’ with some friends two weeks ago). Maybe I thought it would help her, and me, relive old times.

But there isn’t much more to this book than a series of alcohol-soaked anecdotes. And anecdotes about people you don’t really know, at that. The characters never become fully formed, and their exploits do not form a coherent and engrossing plot.

Having said that, Unsworth does have the odd moment of beautiful clarity. Like a drunk that expresses an unexpected profundity. A couple I loved were:

He looked at me. Give me a glance between two lovers on any day and I will show you a hundred heartbreaks and reconciliations, a thousand tallies and trump cards. And still there is something that survives beyond the sham of domesticity, beyond the micro-promises and the micro-power-shifts, and that is the motherfucking miracle.

And oh yes, it is quite sweary. Sorry if that’s not your cup of tea. But I think that is a beautiful, and accurate, passage. Also:

It feels like a compromise when you don’t know whether you want red or white, Rose*, you think, it’s the natural choice, straight down the middle. But it’s not, it’s fucking shit.

Amen to that. Maybe not so beautiful. But definitely accurate!

So, Unsworth can write. I would read more by her. Especially if she invests in creating real characters, rather than just putting together a series of anecdotes.

*I can’t for the life of me find the accents on this program


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