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Only the Animals : 2014 Queensland Literary Awards Winner - Ceridwen Dovey

Only the Animals

2014 Queensland Literary Awards Winner

By: Ceridwen Dovey

Paperback | 25 February 2015 | Edition Number 1

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Booktopia Comments
Read Caroline Baum's Review

Golly. This is a totally original, really bold idea: a collection of short stories told by animals. Animals in the human world, interacting with us and observing how we behave in times of conflict. And not just that, but these animals are literary creatures: Colette's cat taking a stroll through a trench on the Western Front; a tortoise once owned by the Tolstoy family drifting through space during the Cold War; a dolphin trained by the US navy that writes a letter to Sylvia Plath. Unlike anything I've come across, this is writing that takes enormous risks, is funny, surreal, unpredictable. Without preachiness, Dovey has found a really fresh and interesting way to examine our brutality and our humanity, to remind us of what we share with other creatures and what separates us from our animal companions. A major talent with something universal to say.
Product Description
Exquisitely written, playful and poignant, Only the Animals is a remarkable literary achievement by the award-winning Ceridwen Dovey, one of our brightest young writers. Perhaps only the animals can tell us what it is to be human. 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. 'The most original, surprising and inspired book I read this year.' Stephen Romei, Weekend Australian 'An audacious work of the imagaination . . . Funny, tragic, smart, arch, poignant and playful all at once.' Catherine Armitage, The Age 'Dazzling . . . An ambitious book with a fable-like surface, and a whole churning world beneath.' Romy Ash, The Guardian (Australia) 'Only the Animals is mesmerizing and exhilarating, funny and moving. It has elements of strangeness and greatness, like Kafka. Dovey's exquisitely drawn creatures grapple nobly with their animal natures, a genius point of view from which to illuminate how we humans - ostensibly conscious and verbal - are trapped in ours. This book feels like a major mind announcing itself.' Anna Funder 'Wholly extraordinary.' Michelle de Kretser 'The life stories related by these very civilized animals are in some cases touching (the elephant), in others amusing (the mussel), but all are absorbing. They are transmitted to us with a light touch and no trace of sentimentality.' J.M. Coetzee 'An audacious work of the imagination . . . An extraordinary series of fabulist tales . . . The yarns are funny, tragic, smart, arch, poignant and playful all at once.' The Saturday Age 'The emotional heat here is pitched at Bunsen burner blue - hard and clear, without a flicker of showy sentiment - while the main criticism that might be launched against such stories, that they traffic in a naive anthropomorphism, is checked at every move by a rigorous deployment of contemporary developments in animal psychology and neuroscience. The best of the stories are not only smart in a modern, scientific sense, however; they keep one foot in the older, folkloric tradition of animal stories, and in a wonder that is as old as our species . . . What Dovey ventures is to rescue animals from the cultural margins. To be seen by animals is a profound inversion of the situation where it is we who do the watching. The results are sometimes profound, and always powerfully disconcerting.' Weekend Australian 'I was unprepared for the anarchic brilliance of this wonderful book. Dovey persuades us of her characters as she teeters on the edge of sentimentality, but in the next breath she dances back and Only the Animals becomes a kind of conversation that anticipates the reader's - at least, this reader's - response and parries it . . . it is an examination- there is palpable restraint on the page and Dovey draws no conclusions. Only the Animals is a glorious imaginative leap, not into the minds of animals, but into our own. The idea that fiction can be both playful and
Industry Reviews
'The most original, surprising and inspired book I read this year.'
Stephen Romei, Weekend Australian

'An audacious work of the imagaination ...Funny, tragic, smart, arch, poignant and playful all at once.'
Catherine Armitage, The Age

'Dazzling ...An ambitious book with a fable-like surface, and a whole churning world beneath. '
Romy Ash, The Guardian (Australia)

' Only the Animals is mesmerizing and exhilarating, funny and moving. It has elements of strangeness and greatness, like Kafka. Dovey's exquisitely drawn creatures grapple nobly with their animal natures, a genius point of view from which to illuminate how we humans - ostensibly conscious and verbal - are trapped in ours. This book feels like a major mind announcing itself.'
Anna Funder

'Wholly extraordinary.'
Michelle de Kretser

'The life stories related by these very civilized animals are in some cases touching (the elephant), in others amusing (the mussel), but all are absorbing. They are transmitted to us with a light touch and no trace of sentimentality.'
J.M. Coetzee

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