Fever of Animals by Miles Allinson

In brief: Miles is in a cottage in Europe, wanting to write about the disappearance of painter Emil Bafdescu. But his narrative meanders from Germany to Italy and the failure of his relationship and back to Australia.

The good: It’s addictive, beautiful in its prose.

The not-so-good: It’s difficult to categorise – what’s real? What’s not?

Why I chose it: Thank you to Scribe for the copy.

Year: 2015

Pages: 259

Publisher: Scribe Publications

Setting: Most of the world

My rating: 8 out of 10

Fever of Animals is a difficult book to categorise, but boy is it addictive reading! I would sit down and intend to read for 20 minutes and find myself still reading an hour later. It’s a book that has you asking questions and reflecting on your life and the world the whole way through.

I’m going to try to explain a little about the book, but it’s difficult as it goes off on different tangents – trust me though, the whole thing just works. As the reader, I wasn’t sure at times what was true (is there really a painter called Emil Bafdescu? Am I just an uncultured idiot?) and what was fiction. (I did Google Emil but couldn’t find anything – is he so underground that I am just too uncool to find him in the mainstream?) I think this is made more complex as the story is told from the first person point of view of Miles. But is it Miles the author? Or another Miles? Or a combination of the two? Anyway, the story begins as Miles is on a plane. He’s there to bury his father. He starts to reflect on a number of different things in a stream of consciousness – the death of a person who was the last one to speak that language, his failed relationship with Alice and how the surrealist painter Emil Bafdescu disappeared many years ago. After he returns home, Miles reflects on family, Melbourne and life in general. The story with Alice is told in glimpses from their meeting to the ending of their relationship. And in the background is Emil. Is it a co-incidence that Emil is a surrealist painter in this story which feels like it is slightly surreal, drifting in the breeze itself?

You may think from my description that Fever of Animals is difficult to follow. It’s not at all. It’s delightful to get caught up in Miles’ beautiful prose. It’s lyrical and beautiful yet sometimes contains such profound truths that you wonder why you haven’t thought of it before. Miles’ thoughts on grief and relationships and how they link back to Emil and that glimpse of his one painting in Melbourne are well crafted. It’s also amazingly interesting – I never thought that I would care about the searching of a particular painter. Miles the character makes it all seem worthwhile, almost a noble cause even though he freely admits he has no idea where he’s going with this! In particular, I loved Miles’ reflections on his time with Alice. They’re brutally honest and don’t always paint him in the best light but the end of their relationship is spellbinding to read, even if it’s not always comfortable.

Fever of Animals is beautiful, an almost mystical debut. Miles Allinson is clearly an author to watch for!

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