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Monday, 8 September 2014

Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth: post novel thoughts

I'm still reeling from finishing Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth. I think what it is that really got to me is Laura Joyce's (our protagonist's) acute striving for something more, trying to fight against what is ingrained in her - it's a relatable feeling as a single graduate who seems to experience the two questions "What are you going to do with your life, then?" and "How's thing's in your love life?" more than any other (do I sound a bit bitter? Animals has brought it out in me... but more on that in a minute). I felt that whilst the main 'devil and angel' characters of Laura's best friend and boyfriend were presented as such hyperboles, the characteristics that made up their stereotype became less and less clear. For instance: fuck you, angel hyperbole boyfriend, for thinking that the solution to Laura's problems is to not drink, to settle down getting married and to ditch her wild best friend. And fuck you, devil hyperbole best friend, for preaching that love won't make you happy, teaching that forgetting makes you feel better and acting like trouble is always fun. It seemed, to me, that every character that shared their opinion in the novel was at once both right and wrong about it. It affected me watching the protagonist figure that out too. It was exceptionally cleverly done to make the reader feel so.

I was in turmoil reading this book. I had to keep walking away; I felt what Laura Joyce was feeling so poignantly it was, at points, too much - of course, in the best way. It's so refreshing to read a book that properly makes you FEEL. As I just mentioned, Animals brought out bitterness and resentment and angst in me, but it also brought out giddiness, infatuation and I think above all: hope. I thoroughly went on a journey (so cliché, but sometimes clichés represent the truth better than other words can) reading Animals and it felt amazing to get to the end with Laura, mostly at peace. It helped me figure out some shit in my head too, which is sort of why we read, right?

I must just mention the setting too; it's an excellent depiction of Manchester, a setting completely made for the story and it's used to it's absolute utmost to enhance the plot & characters. The flow of this novel is endlessly beguiling - the proficiency of the use of language, setting and ideologies is set against a ruthlessly personal and poignant novel. It's SO good.


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