Published by Penguin Group on 2014
The souls of ten animals caught up in human conflicts over the last century tell their astonishing stories of life and death. In a trench on the Western Front a cat recalls her owner Colette's theatrical antics in Paris. In Nazi Germany a dog seeks enlightenment. A Russian tortoise once owned by the Tolstoys drifts in space during the Cold War. In the siege of Sarajevo a bear starving to death tells a fairytale. And a dolphin sent to Iraq by the US Navy writes a letter to Sylvia Plath...
An animal's-eye view of humans at our brutal worst and our creative best, Only the Animals asks us to believe again in the redemptive power of reading and writing fiction.
Yes, another book I studied at uni, this line is getting repetitive but the books aren’t. Only the Animals is an anthology written by Ceridwen Dovey. What she’s done reminds me very much of what I used to do with Mondayitis, the biggest difference is that Dovey’s work is ever so much better than mine. I do love what she’s done.
Each story is a whole story on its own. It is the story of one animal and how they interact with people or with the war going on at that time. It is the time leading up to their death and we get to see what people or war is like through the eyes of a particular animal. Some of them are more interesting than others.
The accumulation of the stories shows how we anthropocentrise animals. Each one shows people or war rather than the animal itself. The one through the eyes of a a mussel is interesting. Dovey has taken On The Road by Jack Kerouac to show us how the story might look from a different perspective. The mussel then gets caught up in Pearl Harbour and we’re given the chance to grieve for what was lost at that point.
My favourite story was about Plautus. She is a tortoise with a bent for wandering. She starts her story living with a hermit, then wanders off to live with Tolstoy. It’s a pity Tolstoy had died earlier, instead Plautus lives with his daughter, Alexandra. She is eventually shipped off to Virginia Woolf. Plautus continues wandering through one place/person/writer after another before finally coming back to Russia. She’s determined to get into the space programme and succeeds in getting shot off into space. I found myself rather amused with the authors we see in this story. The one I found most amusing was Eric Arthur Blair. Many people may not know that this is George Orwell’s real name. This story is divided into chapters with the one where we see Orwell labelled “Tortoises All the Way Down”. Terry Pratchett fans will see the link there.
While I loved this book I don’t recommend it for people who get upset with animals die. Each animal in this book dies, mostly through war. This shows us the futility of war and how it can affect things other than people.
In case you do want to read it here is an affiliate link for it. At least click through and look at the book, I see every time you click through and it makes me so happy.