Tuesday 15 November 2011

"Animal People" by Charlotte Wood, Product Talk & Give Away.

(This review is part of Nuffnang's Product Talk. I did not receive payment for this review. However, I was lucky enough to receive a copy to read and keep, and another copy to give away to one lucky reader.)

(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?)

And, luckily I have been given the opportunity to feed my addiction, whilst simultaneously reviewing the latest offering from bestselling Australian author, Charlotte Wood. Animal People takes place over one day in the life of Stephen, a despondent, cafeteria worker from the local zoo, intent on dumping his girlfriend.

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.

Competition Time:

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

Michelle :)


  1. I am definitely an animal person, i owned a dog grooming salon for ovver 10 years, and still did volunteer work before i became ill. Being agoraphobic, my gorgeous staffie named meisje is my only friend. Even more so when my partner is at work and on night shifts. When i am too scared to go outside, she always comes with me too help me get outside my bedroom, and always brings me a smile, and most importantly, she is a great snuggler at night time. having my animal in my life, is the most important part of my life at the moment

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  3. I've always considered myself an animal person... it seemed to just be part of belonging to my family, and living in the country. Growing up we had everything from turkeys to rabbits alongside the ever present dogs and cats. :) I think one of the most interesting pets we had was a beautiful black hen we named Pepsi. As a chick she had to be brought inside (I think she was sick for awhile), and she ended up being raised with a litter of kittens we had. It was so cute - she would perch on the edge of their basket... she even used the litter box like they did! We were all pretty sure she thought she was a cat. I distinctly remember how velvety soft her feathers were... Once I started my own family I knew that animals had to be part of it too. Currently we have two cats who are loved by the whole family... I know many families who have kids on the autistic spectrum like we do, and animals are a big help for autistic kids - communication is so much simpler with an animal than it is with people. :)


    As a child I used to get in trouble from mum FOR READING and not doing whatever I was supposed to be doing (my homework, cleaning my room etc etc).

    I love animals. Especially baby animals. Whenever I'm at the zoo or a fair I always want to go pat and feed the baby farm animals. Its not weird that I'm a 25 year old woman right? I always want to pat the dogs tied up outside the supermarket too.

    My little puppydog Charlie (cavalier x toy poodle) is my best buddy. We do almost everything together. I wish Australia was like Paris and we could go
    shopping and to cafes together too! (if and when I manage to leave the house). We have actual conversations when no one else is around (that's not crazy right?).

    I'm a big fan of the Thor method. Go you good thing!

    Katrina (from POTS & DYS group)

  5. I'm an animal person, in the "She's just waiting till she hits 50 to be officially classified as a crazy cat lady" sort of way...
    Some of my fondest memories revolve around animals, interacting with them. Walking down a dark urban street late at night, followed by a cavalcade of my kitties, following them up into trees and behind walls.
    The first time I got on a horse, after having read obsessively about them from the age of 5 on, trying to grab onto her halter and stare into her eyes to make a deep connection before actually hopping into the saddle, and seeing for the first time that alien intelligence, that sense of pure unadulterated wildness, before she knocked me on my ass with her giant head.
    I love animals. I don't understand them, though I'd like to. I unabashedly anthropomorphize, giving words to their reactions that have no meaning in their lives. I can sit for an hour and watch squirrels "play" in a park, fascinated by the life and death struggle for sex and food that's constantly happening around us oblivious humans.

  6. I am an animalia aves animal person. Bird spirits were spoken to by my Sicilian Grandfather who made goldfinches alight at our feet when I was a child. I feel connected to all living things but in particular to birds.

  7. Okay this is an easy entry.. I am as you know so totally an animal person, most especially ALFRED the cutest dog in the world and subject of my blog, plus my stepdog Quinn (Mr Quinnster), and assorted other pets and other creatures we have housed over the years... even the darn birds who are loud and messy but so fun and animated to have around!


All who are lovely enough to comment should be showered with cup cakes, glitter and macarons. I promise to use my spoon bending mind powers to try and get that happening for all who are lovely enough to share their words. Those who go the extra step to share posts should really get a free unicorn. Or at least the gift of finding the shortest and quickest line at the supermarket on a regular basis. xx

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