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Only the Animals


Ceridwen Dovey


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Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (9/15/2015)


An enthralling, daring collection of stories narrated by animals caught up in large-scale human wars and linked in personal or poetic ways to the great writers of their time.

In a trench on the Western Front, a cat recalls her owner Colette’s theatrical antics in Paris. In Nazi Germany, a dog seeks enlightenment. A Russian tortoise once owned by the Tolstoys drifts in space during the Cold War. During the siege of Sarajevo, a starving bear tells a fairy tale. And a dolphin sent to Iraq by the U.S. Navy writes a letter to Sylvia Plath.

Exquisitely written, playful, and poignant, Ceridwen Dovey’s Only the Animals is a remarkable literary achievement by one of our brightest young writers. An animal’s-eye-view of humans at our brutal, violent worst and our creative, imaginative best, it asks us to find our way back to empathy not only for animals but for other people, and to believe again in the redemptive power of reading and writing fiction.

Praise For Only the Animals: Stories

“Filled with knowledge and wisdom and leaves a strange and striking trace on its reader.”—Rachel Kushner

“These stories are strange and richly imagined, well researched and at times haunting and atmospheric....Dovey is a gifted prose stylist....This collection unflinchingly illuminates human nature, and makes clear that the rest of the natural world can only bear witness.”—Megan Mayhew Bergman, The New York Times Book Review

“Inventive...Dovey has daringly shrugged off the constraints of conventional fiction. These stories are alternately funny and distressing....In Only the Animals, Dovey has tried something audacious. Aiming to see the world anew, she’s crafted an unusual and beguiling ode to the feathered, the four-legged, and the fearless creatures of the sea.” —Kevin Canfield, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Dazzling.”—Stephanie Cross, The Guardian

Only the Animals doesn’t simplify or sentimentalize, but it does suggest that there is something irreducibly powerful about our imaginative bonds with animals. As long as there are humans, there will be animals, and as long as there are animals, we will think and write and dream about them.”—Anthony Domestico, The Boston Globe

“Dovey succeeds in providing original bittersweet tales with the hard-edged truths of history. An essential collection, enthusiastically recommended.”—Donna Bettencourt, Library Journal (starred review)

“By appropriating history, mythology, folklore, and even astrology, Dovey finds impressive depth and complexity in the souls of an array of animals....Dovey finds humanity in her diverse protagonists, and the stories are full of surprises, warmth, and insight.”—Publishers Weekly

“A beautifully wrought, disconcerting collection.”—Nell Porter Brown, Harvard Magazine

“And though the humans in these stories often act like beasts, having actual beasts tell the stories give the reader a broadened sense of what we affectionately term 'humanity.' "—Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances

“The life stories related by these very civilized animals are in some cases touching (the elephant), in others amusing (the mussel), but all are absorbing. They are transmitted to us with a light touch and no trace of sentimentality.”—J. M. Coetzee

Picador, 9781250097149, 256pp.

Publication Date: January 10, 2017

About the Author

Ceridwen Dovey’s debut novel, Blood Kin, was published around the world and selected for the National Book Foundation’s prestigious 5 Under 35 honors list. The Wall Street Journal named her one of their "artists to watch." Her short story collection, Only the Animals, was published by FSG in 2015 and described by The Guardian as a "dazzling, imagined history of humans’ relationship with animals." She lives in Sydney, Australia.