This is, essentially, a bunch of stories told by dead animals.
When I try to explain this to people, they look at me funny. So I will try my best to elaborate further.
This book contains ten stories of animals that perished in human conflict over the last few centuries. There is the bear who died in Sarajevo, the elephants in Mozambique, a camel in colonial Australia. There are even some famous ones, like the tortoise who belonged to Tolstoy and got sent into space.
Right about now I can feel you looking at me a bit funny. It says a lot about the author’s talent that I was moved to read this book (after sneaking in a chapter at the bookstore) and that I kept on with it, largely because each voice for each animal is uniquely different, and tells a story that is interesting and says so much about the time, and the place, and ironically, more of the nature of human beings than of the animals themselves. (I guess that was the point).
I have to admit that some of the stories were depressing, but knowing beforehand that the animals are all dead ensures that you have no expectation of a happy ending. The author’s prose — different voices, different ways of telling each story — compelled me to read on, even if sometimes I was all, Gosh, these animals are all dead! Each story was well-thought-out and insightful, and while I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it in the ecstatic sense (it’s like, the sad kind of good), I would call it a good read. I enjoyed most of the stories and while I did find one or two of them boring, it’s really up to the reader to decide which ones you like in this collection. (Some people didn’t like the camel. I liked the camel!) You can choose your favorite animal, and barrack for them, even if, again, they all end up dead — sometimes you forget this in the middle of the story because they are so vibrant and alive and filled with vitality and just life.
Yay or nay?
Are you curious yet? Because curiosity is what drove me to pick this up in the first place and it did not disappoint. If you’re looking for something different, then this is it. Also if you’re like me and like good but sad books, this might be it. If you have a soft spot for animals (like me) you might cry in some parts, but it’s all good. They’re all in their happy place right now (at least that’s what I tell myself).
Content advisory: No HEAs.