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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 fiancé, 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 friendship.

Animals 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.

256 pages, ebook

First published May 1, 2014

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About the author

Emma Jane Unsworth

12 books428 followers
Lives in Manchester, England.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 482 reviews
Profile Image for Rebecca.
266 reviews279 followers
September 6, 2023
“Way I see it,’ she said, glass in one hand, lit cigarette in the other, ‘girls are tied to beds for two reasons: sex and exorcisms. So, which one was it with you?”

Laura and Tyler are flat mates and best friends 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 fiancé, 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, their limits are tested along with their friendship.

This was a rollercoaster of a read! The writing is compulsive and full of female hedonism. I loved and hated the characters in equal measure, laughed and recoiled in shock at the anecdotal stories (some very familiar, some not). A delightful depiction of female friendship with the absence of competition (the portrayed norm is often found pitting women against each other). Animals is an ode to standing confidently beside your partner in crime, admiring and cheering each other on without feeling your own excellence threatened. Being bathed in the comfort of knowing that being loved by this person makes you love yourself even more.

I've seen this book described as an "anxious book" and I think this is really fitting. It's hilarious and uncomfortable, and I love when a writer can make you feel all these emotions and push boundaries like this. I can't wait to read more from this author.

I highly recommend.

“Was I, as I had long suspected, one part optimism two parts masochism, like all the best cocktails?”
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,219 reviews9,919 followers
June 4, 2014
This unexpectedly wonderful (and please note extremely vulgar) novel is being bandied around as “Withnail with girls”. That’s the quote on the front. For those who do not know the cult 1987 British movie Withnail and I you should know that Withnail, a skeletal out of work actor, exists in only three conditions; first is drunk, in which he says things like

We've gone on holiday by mistake.

Or (whilst driving)

Look at this : accident blackspot! These aren't accidents, they're throwing themselves into the road! Throwing themselves into the road gladly to escape all this hideousness. [Heckles pedestrian] Throw yourself into the road, darling, you haven't got a chance!

Or (to a policeman)

I've only had a few light ales.

Or (to a waitress)

Black puddings are no good to us. I want something's flesh!

Second is : hungover.

I feel like a pig shat in my head

Look at my tongue. It's like great yellow sock

Don't threaten me with a dead fish!

Look at me, I'm 30 in a month and I've got a sole flapping off my shoe.

And the third kicks in halfway through the hangover when a desperate need of uninterrupted alcohol intake arises

I've some extremely distressing news. We just ran out of wine.

We want the finest wines available to humanity, we want them here, and we want them now.

And now, Tyler, from Animals, totally channeling the spirit of Withnail :

On the train she emptied the contents of her carrier bag. A quarter bottle of vodka, four cans of diet coke, two pork pies. “We need to get these in while we can," she said, “Jean has turned practically macrobiotic. There will be nothing to eat except beansprouts and dung.”

And here is Laura recounting a fond memory:

Once at a boutique music festival, I’d been walking along with Tyler when she emitted a neat curve of projectile vomit on to the grass in front of her and just carried on walking, resuming what she was saying exactly where she’d left it, barely missing a beat. It was an adept expulsion – not so impressive for the twenty people sitting at picnic benches outside a food stand, wooden cutlery held aloft, unable to finish their falafel.

Uncharitable readers of Animals might conclude that this is no more than an annotated account of what liquids are poured into the top ends of Laura (aged 32) and Tyler (aged 29) and what, therefore, inevitably comes out of their other ends. A remarkable amount of time in this novel is spent in toilets, and details are not spared. This is not a novel I could honestly recommend to our own dear Queen. I believe she is a reader, but this novel might cause her to abdicate. Indeed, Animals almost deliquesces as you turn the pages.

But actually, this 245 page barrage of drug-taking, bingeing, yelling, shagging and vomiting is in fact an affecting account of that queasy moment when one of our two soulmates is thinking that now might be the time to (yes) get married and just… not have to do this any more. After all, Laura’s in love with attractive classical piano-player James, and in a moment of either perfect inebriation or perfect clarity, hard to tell which, Laura said yes, they should get married.
So Laura loves Jim. But she loves Tyler even more. This is very clear from remarks like this :

Competing for attention with Tyler was futile. She didn’t just change the temperature of rooms, she changed their entire chemical make-up so that anyone in the room would only be aware that the room was an extension of her and she was the thrumming nucleus.

I guess the ostensible subject matter of Animals is not so remarkable, except that Emma Jane Unsworth takes it in her teeth and shakes the living daylights out of it, and then in the middle of all the gaily spouting bodily fluids will suddenly turn on the reader:

How different the winding, stony path of the morning to the straight, solid road of the night. The sky was pigeon grey. The way the day begins decides the shade of everything. We disembarked at Manchester just before nine. On the platform my every step felt like a decision. I was full of spinning magnets, attracting and repelling their own poles : walk, sleep, drink, call, don’t call, eat, sit down, don’t sit down.

In the photo of the author on the back flap Emma Jane Unsworth is unsmiling. She looks anxious. Maybe she’s worried about what readers will make of this frankly filthy story. I give it four frankly filthy stars which I found in a gutter outside a pub I would have been scared to go in. I stood outside and I swear I could hear Tyler's raucous laugh.

Profile Image for Oriana.
Author 3 books3,376 followers
February 14, 2016
It is 4º 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.

Profile Image for Blair.
1,794 reviews4,437 followers
March 24, 2016
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.
Profile Image for Thom.
33 reviews72 followers
May 1, 2014
‘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 more 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 cliché, 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 more 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 more 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 more 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 more 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 clichéd 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 élan. I would caution, though, against trying a Withnail-style drinking game with this novel. You might not make it past chapter 1.
Profile Image for Samantha.
387 reviews186 followers
February 7, 2019
Instead of Animals, Emma Jane Unsworth's novel could have been called Insufferable People. I couldn't stand the characters. They were annoying and irredeemable. And my tolerance for "unlikable" characters is high; difficult characters are often some of my favorites. But I hated this novel.

Animals is narrated by Laura. She lives in Manchester, England, with her American best friend Tyler. Laura and Tyler have been partners in crime for ten years, drinking liberally and doing lots of drugs. The two women love to party and exist in an insular world of just the two of them. Except now Laura is in her early thirties, working a job she hates while writing a novel that's going nowhere. A bright spot in her life is her fiancé Jim. But Tyler sees Laura's impending marriage as a betrayal of all they stand for. And with Jim disapproving of their hard partying ways, Laura is unsure of what she really wants.

Animals, how do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways . . . This novel is full of faux-deep statements about Life. At one point Laura thinks, "Was I not making sense? Because I actually thought I was being pretty fucking profound." This pretty much sums up the whole feel of the book. The narrator is spouting inanities at the reader and self-consciously thinking how Meaningful they are. The poetry quotation dropping throughout Animals comes off as so pretentious. The language of Laura & Tyler's friendship, their inside jokes, and film quoting is so irritatingly done. And I'm a film nerd, so you know the movie references are cringe if I can't stand them.

Instead of being edgy, this book is just really gross and foul throughout. Tonally, none of it works. It's just like, here's another gross-out story about diarrhea or vomit. The sex scenes are bad, which I cannot abide. The plot is predictable, including some painfully obvious third-act "twists." In the end, it all feels pointless. These ideas and kinds of people have been explored often and it's been done much better. When I finished, I was so glad to be done. It felt like escaping from a bad party full of people I never wanted to encounter again.
Profile Image for Rachel.
376 reviews178 followers
May 24, 2022
They laughed. Oh, the loneliness of ignorance. It was lonelier than genius because you didn’t even have your knowledge to keep you company. I picked up my wine and tipped all of it into my mouth. Ordered another.
“Make that two,” said Tyler.

I need to think about this one for a bit. It’s hard to categorize. Sort of bleak, raunchy, touching, and humorous? Witty without taking itself too seriously? I appreciate that it doesn’t glamorize the heavy partying but also doesn’t turn itself into trauma porn, even though things sometimes get extremely crazy and grim. I think it was elevated by the fact that our lead characters are intelligent and have depth, so you aren’t just reading about endless vapid shenanigans without real introspection. I didn’t actually feel depressed reading this, which I thought I would from the contents. Despite the really codependent and toxic relationship between Laura and Tyler as they live in squalor and chaos, you can’t help but root for them and wanting them to overcome their aggressive self-destruction and addiction. They don’t really root for themselves most of the time, someone has to.
I definitely thought things were going in a certain direction with Laura (our protagonist) being caught between her state of comfortable arrested development and the potential of growth (the vehicle of which seems to be her relationship with Jim, who is over the constant drugs and drinking and questionable antics).
I would hardly say this book had a predictable trajectory but I was fine with it. Character growth is still growth, even if it ends up differently than you thought it would.

Just a side note: the nonlinear writing style can be disorienting, but it fits the book and tone really well in my opinion.
Profile Image for Sheila.
54 reviews16 followers
February 16, 2015
Originally posted at www.bookertease.blogspot.ca

Let 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 fiancé, 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 affinité 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 more 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?
Profile Image for Imi.
378 reviews112 followers
August 10, 2019
"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 more 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.
Profile Image for Katie.
19 reviews1 follower
June 20, 2014
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 more 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 more and gone a bit deeper with this; it could have been really great.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Leo.
4,390 reviews414 followers
March 24, 2021
I didn't not see the charm or the "fun" in this. Saw it more like people spairing out of control and not really true friendship. I just found it hard to like, but maybe it's because I've personally think different about "partying".
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,801 reviews297 followers
March 19, 2020
had mixed feelings about this book based around Manchester, bits I liked it and others not
1,273 reviews42 followers
November 28, 2019
Two women careen through life. This book is a visceral celebration of the joys of a great extended bender, but also of the pathos the hangover that ensues. Loved it.
Profile Image for Alison Munn.
22 reviews4 followers
May 9, 2020
So disappointed as I really looked forward to reading this. The concept sounded so good. Execution not so much. The key characters are so unlikeable especially when you see zero character development the whole way through the book. There’s barely a plot. What it’s like is being along for the ride as the one sober person while people you kinda don’t like get wasted on a mixture of drugs and booze. You cringe inside as they do embarrassing things and try to pretend you’re listening to what sounds like profound conversation to them but what is in actual face, bullshit. And that’s another point, the characters barely interact with each other. Tyler basically makes grand ‘intellectual’ statements all the way through the book to rationalise her lifestyle, while Laura is mainly wasted or has The Fear from too many nights out. Both super self-absorbed. I found myself skipping through too many pages because there was nothing happening. Also the constant poem references and performative conversational exchanges is a bit try-hard. I felt a bit robbed of time after reading it.
Profile Image for Jay.
125 reviews103 followers
April 11, 2017
En realidad sería 3,5/5.
Creo que el libro habría ganado mucho si hubiera tenido menos de "alcohol/drogas non stop" y más 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 difícil empatizar con ellas. Por poner un ejemplo, la actitud que mantiene Laura respecto a su delicada situación familiar no la veo justificable excepto si viene de una adolescente de 14 años.
De cualquier forma, el estilo me ha gustado mucho y en la segunda parte la historia mejora bastante y adquiere más niveles de profundidad.
Ah, y no puedo dejar de destacar la maravillosa edición de Malpaso.
Profile Image for Olivera.
Author 3 books270 followers
January 8, 2022
Ovo je knjiga za nekog ko mnogo više voli žurke, alkohol i drogu nego ja.
Profile Image for Mekhala Bhatt.
48 reviews70 followers
March 29, 2018
"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.
February 17, 2017
Me ha gustado el libro aunque en líneas generales me ha parecido un tanto superficial. El libro en si se centra en la búsqueda, el encontrarse a uno mismo. Eso me ha gustado mucho aunque me ha preocupado mucho la adición al alcohol (y otras sustancias) de allá protagonista.
Profile Image for Em_AW.
106 reviews3 followers
November 24, 2020
3️⃣: joyless, tragic, repetitive

Reading this book was like taking a 2 hour bus journey to a party you don't want to go to, only to find when you get there that everyone is already fucked and there's no more alcohol or drugs for you. The two main characters were obnoxious and self-involved, repeating patterns of self-destruction again and again and again. Don't get me wrong, I usually love it when authors describe 20/30 somethings monging out in dirty flats, hungover and eating grated cheese with a spoon. But those scenes are usually laced with a comforting, wholesome promise that they either had an epic night, or will have a deliciously grubby day together. In Animals, it felt like Laura and Tyler never actually had a legitimately good time- it was just binge after binge, regret followed by anger followed by loneliness followed by more coke, pills or wine. I found Animals to be a depressingly bleak tragedy, rather than a 'hilarious, honest, raw' coming-of-age tale, and was therefore really disappointed.
Profile Image for Professor Weasel.
804 reviews9 followers
March 29, 2016
A fun cathartic read. I like that the protagonist was still drinking in the end and that her journey as a character didn't necessarily equal complete 100% sobriety. The shameless energy and unabashed drive in this book was very refreshing to me.
20 reviews1 follower
September 8, 2019
Genuinely one of the worst books I've ever read. Indulgent, offensive, smug - I loathed all the characters and the writing was just plain bad. Too many adverbs. Terrible stuff, terrible
Profile Image for Kayley.
207 reviews336 followers
July 31, 2022
If you took a SIP of wine every time these characters drank or did drugs, you would've not only gone through a few bottles, but you'd wake up as hungover as they did every few pages. It was almost monotonous in its depravity, and certainly redundant at a point. I expected, somewhere around the halfway mark, for things to turn around. Maybe Laura, our narrator, would finally realize she had a problem and check herself into Rehab. Or maybe she'd realize Tyler, her best friend/roommate, was an enabler who often dragged her into nights of debauchery that she would regret in the morning. Alas, I kept reading and things didn't change.

But there was still something about it that made me not want to put it down. The writing is contemporary and quirky–lots of references to vomit, as modern day literature goes–which isn't my favorite, but fit the book well. There were some great lines in here, very quotable. Though the characters were on the "unlikable" side of the spectrum, I still found myself rooting for them. The ending felt slightly ambiguous to me, which was a disappointment as much as it was a relief. If you don't like plotless books this isn't the one for you <3 3.5 stars rounded up to 4

Profile Image for Jess Donn .
269 reviews20 followers
February 24, 2022
3.75 these books aren't for everyone but I love a book about messy women not knowing who they are and EJU writes them so deliciously
April 10, 2020
I wanted to give this 4.5 really. It only lost a little by Tyler not really feeling like a fully believable character to me. Her antics yes, her dialogue, not so much.

The above irked me for a while but was subsumed by the well written plot, relationships and mundane details of daily life. As someone a similar age to Laura, many of the experiences of partying, love and loss felt very recognisable. Loved hearing about her exploits taking place in Manchester haunts I know well.

The ending was perfect. I loved that she cast off both the fiancé and co-dependent friend, instead finding fulfilment in choosing her own way. A realistic happy ending.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for J..
458 reviews191 followers
December 15, 2015
'Shall we get another drink?' I said.
'Yes, more drink. More everything. There's a party going on not too far away if you fancy it. New friend of mine. An artist. I've got something in my pocket.' I looked at her. Of course: the whole conversation had been an elaborate preamble. Tyler
was good: talking about parties made you want to party. I felt like it by then--I felt as though (oh, the justifications, they come like flying monkeys through the window) getting lost somewhere together might be good for us.
I said: "I need at least ten hours' sleep in the next forty-eight hours.'
'Baby, that's so feasible that it's verging on
Now, just one minute, you girls. Hold it right there. How would you like your mothers to be reading what you've written? How would I like to do what? Isn't it a little early in the review for the fuck-yourself advice..?

Well, maybe not. Emma Jane Unsworth's "Animals" lays out a few post-millennial lines, tells a story over a few dozen cocktails, and looks to the grand tapestry of binge-misbehavior sagas. "All The Sad Young Men" morphs into "Absolutely Fabulous" and even still, it's pretty funny. The author is looking to bridge the raging-girl-rebel to the raw-nerve tragic girl with plenty of acting-out along the continuum.

Parody, satire, farce, blunt-force pratfall, any humor at all will do once the party is on. Comedy, though-- repeatable, sustained, effective--is famously hard to do. And a white-hot streak of consciousness comedy, is, well, born to crash and burn.

Mostly as planned. But narrative transitions, hinges, book-ends and brackets to the binge are difficult; hitting the wall in nearly every chapter is a tough act to wind up unnoticeably. Occasionally, the mayhem wraps itself neatly:

Outside the club, I took off my mask and cape and threw them into the gutter. Hailed a cab. Got in. At a red light I saw two teenaged girls sitting in a shop doorway, having one of those conversations, smoking their jaws square. They had long mullet hairstyles dyed platinum and pink, brightest at the ends, glam-rock style, dyed over the same sink. As my cab pulled away I felt the smallness of myself and everyone I knew, even the city... These mundane things we do to each other, these miniscule effects we mistake for epic at the time.

Part of the equation for this sort of Days Of Wine & Roses tale is that the center cannot hold, and so of course it does not.

But Unsworth's grasp of the allure, the rapture of the unpredictable is what gets the right bloodflow going, the right synapses set for an evening on the town:

And there it was, as always, swinging my way: The Night. With its deals, promises and gauntlets, by turns many things: nemesis, ally co-conspirator, master of persuasion. It tosses its promises before you like scraps on the road, crumbs leading into the forest: pubs, parties, booze, drugs, dancing, karaoke ... Here, kitty. Here, kitty kitty. Whatever your peccadilloes, the Night knows.

It's about 1oo% certain that first novelists like Unsworth recoil and spit nails when they hear this-- but it can still be said: this is a first novel that shows a lot of potential; and future work will only benefit by this kind of fearless, high-wire first outing. Notable for daring and the very smoothness that can be brought to near-chaos in the proceedings. Pretty funny, too.
Profile Image for Molly.
14 reviews
January 11, 2020
Absolutely devoured this book, it has had me laughing on a train journey, wriggling around in bed in discomfort, and examining my own past friendships with more clarity. The women it centres around are vulgar and provocative and they drink enough to sink a ship but they are also damaged and dealing with the traumas that come with life. The writing is superb, nothing but praise for Emma Jane Unsworth!
Profile Image for David.
67 reviews4 followers
August 20, 2019
Proof that if you shake together a cocktail of sex, drugs, drinking, more drugs, violence, more drinking, swearing, more sex, more drugs and yet more drinking on top... it’s very boring. Actually, that’s not entirely true - Edward St Aubyn’s Bad News is incredibly funny and that’s essentially just describing a weekend-long drug binge. So maybe it comes down to the quality of the writing. And on that score, Animals is pretty terrible. Clunky and hackneyed. And dull.

Fortunately, despite that, it’s a quick and easy read, so I stuck with it all the way to the predictable ending.

To be fair, it’s not all bad - there’s an occasional funny moment and the odd original turn of phrase, but nothing truly memorable. At its best, it captures some of the essence of what true friendship means, but there’s not enough of that to sustain it.

And at its worst its wholly inauthentic. Laura’s trip to Sweden is a low point - it feels like the author is showing off. “Look at me, I’ve been to Stockholm, aren’t I just the coolest?” But it reads like she’s lifted it from a Lonely Planet guide. And the plane must have taken an extraordinarily circuitous route for our heroine to have been able to cram in as much drinking as she claims.

Tiresome nonsense.
2 reviews
August 3, 2014
Having found myself in many a situation not too dissimilar to Tyler and Laura - albeit notably less extreme - I found that 'Animals' was everything I expected it to be but in some ways a complete surprise.

I was absolutely blown away by the artistic yet abstract prose, which was clearly thought out with the utmost strategy to define these characters' personalities despite the whirlwind of their drink and drug-fuelled lives. This is definitely a book that makes you want to put pen to paper and recount your own stories.

My only disappointment was the flow of the narrative which I felt got lost along the way, almost to the point of being rush towards an ending. I found myself savouring the final pages because I could see that the end was going to be put upon me quite abruptly.

Overall, a very unique, hilariously grotesque insight into a female hedonistic lifestyle. I only wish there could have could been a few more chapters to draw it to a close more satisfyingly.
Profile Image for Sarah.
1,222 reviews35 followers
February 11, 2018
Really enjoyed the style of writing, and found parts of it incredibly relatable (in a bad way). If you have been a teenager/university student in the UK then the drinking culture and relentless going out portrayed here along with the things Tyler and Lo get up to may hit a bit close to home, albeit a bit more extreme than my own experience.

I have to say it did take a while to feel like all of this was going anywhere when probably around 3/4 of the book was spent following Tyler and Lo either getting drunk or incredibly hungover - which while I was happy to read out for a bit, got a bit much after a while (although I expect that was intended). I thought the ending was fitting, a glimmer of positivity after a sobering look at drinking culture.
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