Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth

In brief: Laura and Tyler are best mates. Life is about getting smashed, getting high, getting out of it. But now Laura’s about to get married – can the friendship continue or will Tyler sabotage it?

The good: It’s crazy, awesome fun – I felt like Laura was sitting beside me, telling me the story.

The not-so-good: I wanted to stop and reflect after each sentence to savour this book.

Why I chose it: Recommended by a number of UK bloggers last year.

Year: 2014

Pages: 247

Publisher: Canongate

Setting: England

My rating: 9 out of 10

I’m really not sure where to start with this review. Animals for me was an incredibly brilliant read and I’m certain my musings on it will not do it justice. I’ve had this book on my radar since a number of my favourite UK bloggers read and recommended it on release last year and then I saw that the book has been longlisted for the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered prize. I think this was a good cue to read it, even though I’m in Australia (I feel like I’m in the UK sometimes though because the time difference means I get to read all the morning tweets, plus I ‘attend’ university in the UK virtually). Anyway, I’m dithering. Just go and read the book. Yes, it is that good and I wanted to savour every moment of reading it. People might be fooled that because it’s relatively slim, it might be light-weight. It’s not – it’s thought provoking on a number of different fronts from friendship, love and working out what to do with your life.

The first thing is the cover. I love it. At first glance, it looks kind of hipster but you think that the girls on the front could just be your friends. I mean, they look relatively normal but fun – is that an old school camera? And then you read the awesome quote from Caitlin Moran that references Withnail and I and then you flick to the back where the first paragraph quote about being tied up has you in fits. There’s a reference to Girls and a mention of humour. Plus the book has book flaps. I’m in love.

Then I started reading. So many things to love about this book! The chapters have names and cool, funny names too like ‘The Cowpat and the Psychiatrist’. We immediately fall into (or should that be stumble into) the world of Laura and Tyler. Best friends, they live together and party together. Even though they’re beyond the ‘traditional’ age of hard-partying (29 and 32), these girls go HARD. Not just with alcohol but drugs too – wraps are casually swapped under the table and sometimes banknotes need to be washed after a long night. Drugs are mentioned casually as though they’re perfectly normal – which they are to Laura and Tyler. Laura’s fiancé, Jim isn’t keen on the heavy drinking (the kind where you’re unconscious for Sunday in its entirety) or the drugs. Laura’s parents don’t really seem to know and Tyler’s sister has given them up.

The rest of Laura’s life isn’t that interesting. Work in a call centre and living for nights out. She’s writing a novel about a priest who falls in love with a talking pig, but it’s more of a conversation piece. Her life is just waiting for the next text from Tyler – which bar and where. You might think that this sounds monotonous, but it’s not. Through the girls’ adventures and mishaps, we learn more about Laura and her previous friendships that fell away as she got to know Tyler. Her anxiety. Her working class girl done well school life and university success. Where did it all go wrong? The friendship which seemed light hearted at first starts to turn darker – is Tyler trying to break up Laura and Jim? Who is pulling the strings? Where will it stop? Will it stop?

Emma Jane Unsworth’s prose is a delight to read. It’s conversational, but loaded with deeper imagery and meanings. (It’s kind of like Mad Men depth in a book). Laura felt like a friend, who plonked herself down on the couch and started talking. I didn’t want her to leave; I couldn’t get enough of the writing and the story. (Plus, I liked that Laura did crazy stuff that I’ve never done – I got to live through her). Laura’s thoughts and feelings were all mixed up, kind of like we all feel from time to time. The finale was also well done, it stayed true to Laura’s nature, yet it was subtly uplifting.

Funny, crazy and an insta-love read, Animals is bluntly honest and realistic. Definitely worth reading – I’m hoping it makes the Fiction Uncovered short list!


4 thoughts on “Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth

Add yours

  1. MMmMM I’m not too sure if I would enjoy this book. Perhaps it is one I should try by getting it at the library. Thanks for the review.

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