Way I see it, girls are tied to beds for two reasons sex and exorcisms So, which was it with you The coming of age tale of our two anti heroines opens with this wonderfully strange scene and you re hooked.Laura and Tyler are two women immersed in a mutually assured destructive and highly co dependent relationship with each other fuelled by a zealous love for alcohol, hard drugs and late night raucous adventures.However, our narrator, Laura is at a crossroad in her life now, as she tries to juggle her impending nuptials and her love of the Night pretty much heralded by the siren call of Tyler.Laura is torn.Between two people.two ideas.The Past and the Future Between being mired in her escapist hedonism with Tyler or getting trapped in another person s dream life trajectory Jim.Taking responsibility for one s own life and actions is scary.The Narrator is faced with the truly frightening situation of living her life on her own terms, mostly sober.Should she settle down into domestic and stable bliss with Jim Give up her independence and wild nights A note on the two protagonists they are real, full blooded, in control women not afraid to break taboos or be bogged down by what society demands of them.The novel never veers into moralistic or predictable domain and the self discovery of the Narrator is brought about refreshingly and seamlessly.At a basic level Animals is a book about soulmates, albeit very, very damaged and destructive ones.The ones which crash into each other but make the other feel alive.There is a psychic recognition and understanding between the two characters which plays off its own energy and carries the book smoothly.They do not make good decisions together, but they are in it together for the rush and the crash.I absolutely LOVED reading this book It s smart, laugh out loud funny, vulgar, surprisingly tender when it comes to love and quite thought provoking in moments of our Yeats spouting narrator s drug and alcohol fuelled epiphanies.It s also a very good pick me up for when you re feeling a bit blue and need something surreal and fresh Oh your life can be bad but never wretching in a new place everyday or locked up in your drug dealers place or being chased from a shady spanish bar or underemployed and struggling with writing a book about the love between a talking pig and priest bad. Originally posted at www.bookertease.blogspot.caLet me start off with a bit of a warning Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth is not for everyone, and it is definitely not for the faint of heart Mom you re not going to like this book Honestly, I am not even sure how much I like it I mean I do like it, I really like it but it s kind of terrifying It s like someone took my early 20s and put them on crack and ecstasy and then flipped it all around til all I want to do is vomit And that s literally what is happening in this book with all of the drugs and all of the vomiting A lot Like over and over again But still I do like it Tyler and Laura are both girls in their late 20s early 30s living together in Manchester, who haven t really gotten it all figured out just yet Instead of trying, they get drunk a lot like every day do a ton of drugs and then just lay about hungover the rest of the time I think that occasionally they may go to their dead end jobs But everything is not as cheery as it seems on the surface Laura is engaged to be married and her fianc , Jim, has recently quit alcohol and she is also trying to write a novel, Bacon, about a priest falling in love with a talking pig Tyler is having some separation anxiety and is trying to get Laura in to some crazier and crazier situations Laura describes her friendship with Tyler as kinship, or une affinit profonde that doppelganger effect that can go either way to mutual understanding or mutual destruction Someone sees right to your backbone and simultaneously feels their backbone acknowledged It sounds beautiful, right Too bad Tyler is the queen bee of hot messes She is constantly drunk or high or hungover, she is loud and crass and has no problem yelling at anyone to get what she wants, or just for the fun of it oh and then there is the vomiting in public Laura is almost as bad Now to be fair we are being told the story from Laura s point of view, but she seems to be a little aware that maybe things have gotten out of control The problem is, when Tyler says jump Laura says how high heh see what I did there and so all of Laura s good intentions go running out the door The thing is, as dirty and raunchy as this book is, it is really good It is really well written, it s poignant and relevant and Unsworth does a brilliant job of showing the complexities of relationships and the pain of feeling like you are losing your best friend She also has done a brilliant job with Laura s character While I am pretty sure Laura is a reliable narrator, she s not necessarily a reliable person She talks a lot about being a kid and trying to fit in, even if it meant pretending to be a different religion depending on that of her current friends She talks about how she felt so much internal pressure that she would throw up and had to go see a therapist I don t really care for Tyler that much, but I can see how Laura would be totally taken in with her Tyler is beautiful and charismatic, and doesn t really give you the opportunity to say no She s one of those girls, who even though you aren t sure that you really like them, you really want to be in their orbit That s kind of the situation here when the story first started Tyler and Laura were soulmates, but as Laura continues the narrative we can start to see the chinks in the armour Laura is caught between two worlds the sensational Tyler and calm and collected Jim Jim is stable and responsible and he really wants to settle down but his job keeps him overseas a lot, out of sight out of mind Luckily, and most importantly Laura is head over heels for him but the distance is hard on her Jim I missed him in a physical way, like a thirst Missed his mouth and his composure and his steady loving eyes I didn t buy the whole absence makes the heart grow fonder spiel I was with Rochester on the matter a cord was tied to my ribcage on one end and tied at the other end to Jim s, and the further away he got, the thinner the cord stretched I totally relate to Laura, besides the extreme drinking and drugs of course When you don t have a lot of confidence in yourself it s so easy to get swept up with someone who makes you feel like you are part of something huge Laura is starting to get pressure from Jim to tone things down a little though, and the stress of living in two worlds is starting to wear on her Besides dealing with all of this, her father is dying from cancer and Laura has no idea how to deal She s starting to come apart at the seams, and I don t think that it s going to end very well Jim is the only one who keeps her even semi stable What was it he said to me the other day We are not defined by how we are but by how we try to be What if you try too hard to be everything I countered Lie down, he said Lie still But Jim is gone a lot and things just keep escalating and I am slightly worried that Laura is going to end up dead or in jail Unsworth has definitely taken the traditional perceptions and roles of females and thrown them out the window Women in their early 30s are supposed to be ready to settle down, get married, have babies and live in single family homes in the suburbs and of course, if that s what they want than all the power to them But being pigeon holed like that doesn t work for everyone, some woman are not ready to settle down, some women will never want babies or husbands or houses being a woman in my early 30s without these things I can commiserate I am constantly asked when my boyfriend and I are going to get married and have babies It s incredibly refreshing to read a story where women are going through the same things and are pushing back I m not sure that it s necessary to go as far as she does with it, but it s interesting seeing girls behave in ways that we traditionally assign to boys And since I am only half way through, although I m worried about Laura, I really don t know where this story will go I guess it s also the way to get your point across go big or go home, right Laura And Tyler Are Two Young Women Who Have Been Tearing Up The City Streets For Ten Years, Leaving A Trail Of Angry Drug Dealers And Spent Men In Their Wake Now Laura Is Engaged To Be Married And Her Teetotal Classical Pianist Fianc , Jim, Is Away Overseas Tyler Wants To Keep The Party Going But Laura Is Torn Between The Constant Temptations Provided By Her Best Friend And A Calmer Life With Jim On The Horizon As The Wedding Draws Closer, The Duo S Limits Are Tested, Along With Their FriendshipAnimals Is Hilarious, Honest, Raw And Thoroughly Moving It Is About Deciding When It S Time To Grow Up, And Recognising What You Have To Leave Behind If You Do You know how it is Saturday afternoon You wake up and you can t move Laura is caught between two worlds One the one hand, she is engaged to Jim, a concert pianist with a budding international career, and a nice flat in the centre of town on the other, her best friend and housemate Tyler is an uninhibited force of nature, by turns many things nemesis, ally, co conspirator, master of persuasion Laura is working on a novel, Bacon, about a priest who falls in love with a talking pig, but progress is slow the rest of the time she works in a call centre, and drinks Her life is a battle between the urge to create and the siren call of The Night , with its deals, promises and gauntlets Tyler is The Night s greatest advocate, and much of the novel follows the women s hazy adventures through Manchester after dark Periodically, Jim returns from whichever exotic location he has been performing in to try to restore some balance to the situation.Animals comes with a cover quote from Caitlin Moran, calling it Withnail with girls There are plenty of similarities between the book and Bruce Robinson s film both focus on close, same sex friendships which veer between symbiosis and mutually assured destruction, both feature would be creatives who do a lot drinking than creating, and both even include disastrous trips to Cumbria But take a minute to think about what life would be like for a female Withnail.During a recent talk at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, the critic Olivia Laing argued that there is a double standard in play when we discuss male and female alcoholism in literature There is, she said, a large audience which wants to hear anecdotes about Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald in their boozy heydays, even if they tend to gloss over the terrible later years on the other hand if you try to talk about Jean Rhys, drinking herself to death at home, no one wants to hear about it Female drinkers are censured, not celebrated maybe Dorothy Parker is an exception, dispensing withering put downs with a glass in her hand This disparity is reflected throughout the wider culture Articles on public drinking are frequently illustrated with images of women, suggesting a greater degree of shame an approach which has become a clich , mocked by the BBC website s paper monitor.Unsworth is aware of this double standard while Withnail is allowed to carry on boozing without censure, Laura is subjected to the judgements of the newly sober Jim, who frequently reminds her that you have chance of conceiving if she stops drinking, that booze doesn t fit with what I want for our future This is just the latest version of what Laura has internalised from an early age She remembers going to a psychiatrist, aged 12, and discussing how she felt pressured by the expectations placed on her The pressure she feels seeps into her narrative, as she feels a need to justify herself to an unseen audience I sipped Give me credit for that, will you Her drinking is, in part, a reaction to this, a way of escaping the constant sense of being monitored The point of intoxication, she says at one point, was not to create but to destroy the part of me that cared whether or not I created Of course, this is a vicious circle each bout of drinking is prelude to an attack of the existentials , which have to be managed with a strict set of protocols no news, no parental phone calls, some fresh air of you could tolerate the vertical plane.While it makes a serious point, though, Animals is also very, very funny It is probably dangerous to go drinking with Emma Jane Unsworth, as it seems like she has harvested years of night out anecdotes to include here The novel opens with Laura passed out on her bed, her half removed tights caught over the frame Tyler walks in, surveys the scene, and drawls, Way I see it, girls are tied to beds for two reasons sex and exorcisms So, which was it with you Laura s brain flicks through random, fractured images from their night out fizzy wine, flat wine, city streets, cubicles, highly experimental burlesque moves on bar stools.Sometimes the laughs come from Laura s outrageous behaviour the time we dressed up as Paula Yates and John Leslie for a Dead Celebrities party the time we swam in a loch at lunchtime and had sex beneath a war memorial, causing a group of hikers to call the police , sometimes from killer one liners I m going to do what any rational person should do when they find their days are numbered Move to Stoke It ll seem like longer Elsewhere, Unsworth s blend of smart prose and comic observation leads to such memorable images as a discarded Peperami sheath like an anteater s condom.The structure of Animals is straightforward than her innovative debut, Hungry, The Stars and Everything, and the pace is much faster, but even as the narrative races along it is clear that Unsworth has spent time crafting her prose She picks over the shabby tragedy of a run down hotel, its background fizzling bleakness A seduction becomes an autopsy with cutlery Anyone who knows Manchester will appreciate descriptions of the monstrous blade phallus of the Hilton Tower , or the space around Victoria Station, sullen with redundancy the Green Quarter where To Let signs prickled the front lawns of artless tower blocks.Events become increasingly surreal as the novel progresses, reflecting Laura s fraying psyche The women find themselves getting chased out of an underground Spanish speakeasy after their friend insults a dwarf at some point Laura s work not in progress Bacon becomes Killing the Changes, because that s mysterious and I want the book to be mysterious and complex even though its about the simplest thing really and that s love , her retreat into abstraction reflecting her difficulty in engaging with the reality of her life A traditional narrative would have Laura hitting rock bottom before getting on to the business of redemption The nearest Animals comes to this is a confrontation in the toilets at Manchester Town Hall, but this is a coming of age than a cautionary tale There is a strand of hope in Laura s story courtesy of a subplot involving her father, who is diagnosed with cancer but finds solace in the progress of the Mars Rover.Critics like Sarah Hughes in The Guardian have identified a new trend for literary bad girls , novels with female anti heroes happy to live outside society s boundaries , including Emma Jane Unsworth and Zoe Pilger as prime examples of the genre, along with the Guardian s obligatory Lena Dunham mention Partly, Hughes says that these novels are a rejection of the comfortable romantic lies and the petty stuff of domestic life which comprise a clich d view of female literature I think this is a bit of a straw woman argument throughout the twentieth and twenty first centuries women have been writing dark and intelligent novels whether they have been heralded or not is a different matter.I wonder if these recent novels are influenced on some level by a shift in the relationship between power and gender in the internet age Laurie Penny s recent essay Cybersexism argued that while many women of her generation had found a voice through online forums, the rise of digital communication had also allowed for a renewed public scrutiny of women s behaviour the recent controversy over Women Who Eat on the Tube being the latest example By creating female protagonists who break taboos and assert control over their own existences, they are rejecting the idea that they should alter their behaviour to suit pre conceived norms.Animals recognises the difficulties of this process, but Unsworth is careful not to moralise or censure her characters Laura s journey is both realistic and also extremely entertaining After all, it s well and good to read Tao Lin detailing the minutiae of post moral twenty first century youth culture, and the drug and drink count in Taipei is pretty similar to that of Animals, but sometimes you need a novel to come along with this amount of outrageous energy and lan I would caution, though, against trying a Withnail style drinking game with this novel You might not make it past chapter 1. En realidad ser a 3,5 5.Creo que el libro habr a ganado mucho si hubiera tenido menos de alcohol drogas non stop y m s de autodescubrimiento Tyler y Laura son dos buenos personajes, pero el punto de inmadurez que alcanzan es tan alto que se me ha hecho muy dif cil empatizar con ellas Por poner un ejemplo, la actitud que mantiene Laura respecto a su delicada situaci n familiar no la veo justificable excepto si viene de una adolescente de 14 a os.De cualquier forma, el estilo me ha gustado mucho y en la segunda parte la historia mejora bastante y adquiere m s niveles de profundidad.Ah, y no puedo dejar de destacar la maravillosa edici n de Malpaso. It was ok , as a 2 star rating I think, perhaps, I read this too soon after The Animators, another novel centred on female friendship I really enjoyed the writing style here, but I think the narrative and, most importantly, the friendship between Laura and Tyler got lost somewhere along the way It s vulgar and chaotic I think it could have been a bit subtle and ended in a less rushed and predictable manner Both of them are obnoxious to the extreme, and the scenes where they were either drinking or extremely hungover begin to feel repetitive, and really there was no other way it was going to end. Me ha gustado el libro aunque en l neas generales me ha parecido un tanto superficial El libro en si se centra en la b squeda, el encontrarse a uno mismo Eso me ha gustado mucho aunque me ha preocupado mucho la adici n al alcohol y otras sustancias de all protagonista. I have just finished Animals, and have to say I was quite disappointed Aside from finding a couple of typos and grammatical errors in the book, which one is one of my biggest pet peeves, I found it took far too long to introduce some real substance.It isn t until around 200 pages in that something actually happens besides the two best friends going out and getting drunk taking drugs every night, which to be honest does become tiresome.I really enjoyed gaining snippets in to Laura s emotional journey as she feels somewhat trapped in her relationship with Jim as well as the constant partying with Tyler it s an interesting theme and one which wasn t explored to its entirety The idea of having two thirty something year old women who are on the cusp of being too old to party and not know hot to cope with this is really interesting too it s a theme which is rarely explored All in all I think there were some great ideas here but they just weren t taken to the next level It felt like I was reading someone s diary where all they talked about was nights out with their best friend, until the very end where it finally picked up I would have loved Unsworth to have explored the themes a little and gone a bit deeper with this it could have been really great. It is 4 in Brooklyn right now record breaking, life threatening sez the mayor , tooth rattlingly cold When I walk my poor little pups, the pee arcs out of them already in icicles I m a big fan of winter, but this is preposterous So I did the only sensible thing I canceled all my fabulous Saturday night pre Valentine s party plans, laid in provisions, roasted a giant panful of veggies, and read a whole book, cover to cover, while eating too much chocolate It was kind of a fabulously decadent night and I am a person who goes out to crazy shows and wild weird events pretty much all the time To Emma, then thank you This book was great good fun, and a hilarious one to read while doggedly resisting the pull of Saturday night festivities, wrapped in a bunch of blankets on the couch It s the story of Laura and Taylor, BFFs of the highest order and party girls of the most serious type waking up midafternoon still drunk, stealing jars of ecstasy from cracked out dealers, fucking all the boys in all the ways, or at least teasing the hell out of them and then dashing off into the night The kind of rage rage rage against the dying of the light up for everything good time gals, the sort of blissed out hedonists who look almost self destructive in the right light So.Laura is living in Tyler s spare room trying to be a writer but unable, ever, to resist the siren song of the bar, the night, of Tyler herself Laura known mostly as Lo is also engaged, to Jim, a semi solemn concert pianist, of whom you ll never guess Tyler does not hold a particularly high opinion Jim has recently quit drinking, and is not so subtly trying to get Lo to do the same Tyler you ll never guess is trying to get Lo out of Jim s grasp, and is apt to drunkenly, high out of her mind edly go maybe a bit overboard in this pursuit.Onward into the night we go and the next night, and the next hilarious drunken storytelling, preposterous coked up dancing, agonizing ecstasy fueled bedroom hijinks There s a Spanish basement speakeasy and a horrifically embarrassing incident with a dwarf, a day drinking bonanza that ends with a long nap under a bush, mornings well, afternoons awakening tied to a bed by one s own stockings There s diarrhea in front of a dad, getting caught sleeping with a young un by his mom which results in a skateboard to the noggin, a t shirt set on fire as a distraction in order to get into a sold out show, sneaking pocketsful of ham and honey into a vegan diner Good times.There s also cancer, and rehab, and the hospital, and lost friends, and the howling fantods There s Yeats and Pound quoted And the days are not full enough, and the nights are not full enough, and life slips by like a field mouse, not shaking the grass There s morality and its discontents There s love, a lot of love, placed and misplaced, and the things we do for the people we love, whether or not, in the light of day, those things will seem loving at all I don t want to overstate it it s often frivolous and the girls are sometimes hilarious and wonderful and other times really obnoxious The writing is often very clever and so so so so British but other times kind of flat The book s a great headlong rush when you read it all in one sitting, though I can t say whether it would have held my interest over several days But anyway, it was just exactly what I wanted today. So, I finally read this, after two years of it hovering near the top of my to read list It s hard to explain why I didn t make a stab at it before now something to do with the weight of expectation, I suppose, and perhaps something to do with feeling I needed to be in the right mood or frame of mind In any case, a holiday seemed like perfect timing I thought, after all this waiting, I might merely like it, which was in itself a dismaying prospect, but no, I loved it Here s what I wrote in my holiday notebook Wonderful, how do I put it into words Both raucous and profound Relatable in the most intimate ways Loved the ending cried when I reached it and wanted to personally thank the author for ending Laura s story in this way. I almost did issue the author with said thanks, and it would ve been in capital letters, in the early hours of the morning, on Twitter With hindsight, I m glad I stopped myself, although such actions might well have been in keeping with the spirit of the book I m aware this isn t really a review and doesn t do much to recommend the book to other people, but I think I m going to leave it at that The sort of book I will never read the negative reviews of, because I know they will drive me into a frenzy of anger.
Lives in Manchester, England.
- 256 pages
- Emma Jane Unsworth
- 18 June 2017 Emma Jane Unsworth