I was expecting this novel to be fairly quirky, based on the fact that I have been greatly enjoying its author’s Twitter lockdown readings ‘in the style of’ such diverse characters/celebrities as Hulk Hogan, Gollum and Richard Ayoade (do follow @EwinsTim if you want some light relief at the moment – he is doing sterling work on that score). It is quite something to start a book and hear the author doing an impression of Christopher Walken in your head, I can tell you.
Indeed, in terms of delightful eccentricity, We Are Animals does not disappoint. Opening on Palolem Beach in Goa in 2016, we are introduced to a ‘moustache’, Jan, henceforth to be known as Manjan (to avoid confusion with Ladyjan, the woman for whom he is waiting). Manjan begins to tell his story to a young ‘vest’, Shakey, who is trying to entice beachgoers to a silent disco. A cow wanders along the beach; bubbler crabs roll balls of sand at the water’s edge (for that, we are told, is what bubbler crabs do.)
As Manjan and Shakey forge an acquaintance over red wine and vodka redbulls, Manjan’s incredible story is gradually revealed. The book has the chatty, informal tone of anecdote, with plenty of wry asides and a not-entirely-linear narrative that takes us on a madcap adventure all over the globe, from the wonderfully bizarre town of Fishton to not-quite-Norway, to Russia, Nepal, and of course, India. As the co-incidences mount up, it becomes clear that this is not just a funny book – it is a story with genuine heart. At times I was reminded of Jonas Jonasson’s novels, but in truth it’s hard to compare We Are Animals to other works: it is resolutely its own beast.
This book might not be to absolutely everyone’s taste; there is no denying the glorious silliness of many of its scenes, and those who seek dour realism in their fiction may find it too fanciful. But I absolutely loved its humour, its kindness, and its non-judgemental take on what it means to be a human animal. If you are looking for an uplifting read that will remind you of the wonders of the natural world and the importance of human connection, look no further.
We Are Animals is out now with Eye/Lightning Books , and is currently available for 99p on Amazon.