(Very excited to receive my parcel)
I am a book geek. No two ways about it. One quick glance at my dusty bedside table makes this readily apparent. This is not a new phenomenon. I was the weird child reading Tolkien and Bronte in primary school. One of those strange kids who actually volunteers to be a library monitor so they have first access to all the new additions. Yep that's right. I was that girl. I knew how to party back in the day. I can even admit that one of my favourite High School trips to Melbourne was to visit an antiquarian book shop that looked like it was straight out of a movie. A beautiful blue stone building complete with muffled silence, lashings of dark wood panels, and precious first editions secured behind glass. Makes me wistful just thinking about it.
Very little has changed since that time (including my aversion to dusting, and never ending love of hula hoops. Remember those Big M ones that smelt like the drinks? I had a chocolate one that I loved dearly. Well, until my big brother gave it to the dog for a game of tug-a-war. Not that I'm still bitter or anything.) There is still nothing better than the feel of a book in my hands or the smell of the pages as you crack it open for the first time. Or even better the well-loved, dog-eared copies of your favourites, held together with sticky tape and prayer. Battered treasures that you pull out on rainy days or when you need that extra hit of comfort.
(If I make it small, you can't see the dust right?)
I came to this book with no expectations. I avoided reading any reviews and decided to dive in armed only with an open mind and a trusty block of chocolate. And I was rewarded with an engaging book that was truly a joy to read. Can I write a book review by simply typing the words "loved it" again and again? Probably not. Does it count that I teared up at the end as Stephen finds clarity in an unexpected moment? Is my emotional connectedness to the story and the characters an adequate reflection of the book? Or that I read it in two sittings as I became so drawn into the story? Emotionally, I'd give it an A+, but I should probably try a more intellectual approach as well.
Charlotte's paints a vivid picture of Australian city living. The familiarity of the scenes and attention to detail draw you in from the beginning. I particularly loved the early picture she painted of Stephen's vision of his mother on the other end of the phone tracing the flowers on her carpet with her toes. A level of detail reflected throughout the novel. The characters, from the main protagonist Stephen to those that pepper his life on the periphery, feel as though they have been plucked from the real world, giving depth and realism to the story. The slowly building tension is well paced. And the ending (without giving anything away) unexpected and cleverly hopeful, where she could easily have left the reader with a feeling hopelessness and perpetual urban disconnect.
The central character Stephen is as fascinating as he is troubled. Charlotte's use of his internal dialogue as he tries to make sense of the world around him, whilst also trying to preserve his self, is truly engaging. The oppressive heat of the day, the perfect mirror to the oppressive weight of Stephen's life.
The question of not only whether you are an animal person, but what exactly that means for how we relate to the world and those around us, is craftily played out throughout. Making the reader constantly review their own position of what it means to be one of the animal people, without it feeling forced or lecturey.
Overall, I found Animal People a really enjoyable read. And I have no doubt that it'll find it's place up there with my other well-loved, dog-eared treasures to be read again and again.
You can read more about Animal People here. There are also a series of great videos of the author discussing the novel.
I have one copy of Animal People to give away to one lucky reader.
All you have to do is leave a comment here on the blog, twitter, or FB, and let me know if you are or aren't an animal person, and what that means for you. Make sure you let me know if you do tweet or FB.
Entries close: Midnight, Friday the 25th of Novemeber 2011 (Australian time)
Winner will be drawn using the Thor Method and announced on Sunday the 27th November 2011