A Brother's Story
Animal Magic is a wonderfully original memoir: an account of two brothers and the exhilarating private world they invented.
‘Your brother looked healthy, happy, natural. But everything else about him is extremely odd. Not faintly odd. Extremely odd. Except in appearance. He’s the opposite of you.’ Quentin Crisp
At the age of twenty-two, the youngest of five brothers, Jonathan Barrow, was killed with his fiancée in a car crash. He left behind the manuscript of a novel, The Queue, in which, among other things, he prophesied his own death. The story of a boy and a dachshund, populated by a kaleidoscopic menagerie of people and animals and an array of anthropomorphic in-betweens, The Queue is a vivid and irreverent portrayal of the world in which Jonathan and his awe-struck older brother Andrew were raised.
Jonathan and his book form the framework of a remarkable study of a young man’s inner demons and outer effervescence, his family, England and high and low society in the Swinging Sixties. Filled with fascinating and fantastical anecdotes, Animal Magic documents a heady and peripatetic childhood in Lancashire, the Lake District and Wiltshire, misadventures at home and school, and the early working life of the two brothers, on the lower rungs of show business, backstage at Claridge’s, and finally in advertising. This spellbinding elegy negotiates love affairs, family tensions, exhibitions, publishers’ rejections and precarious living in a flat in Tite Street, Chelsea.
Punctuated with excerpts from The Queue and Jonathan’s other bizarre and brilliant writings, Animal Magic is a book bursting with humour, wit and pathos and featuring an outlandish cast of characters, from an eccentric father, a mischievous family dog and a down-and-out ex-schoolmaster to curious stars of Swinging London like Mick Jagger and Tommy Cooper. It is a memoir unlike any other.
“A very funny, original and touching memoir to a lost brother.”
“Animal Magic is exactly that... a funny, dark memoir. Think Tommy Cooper describing a painting by Hieronymus Bosch.”
“A book unlike any other: it's about jokes and brothers and grief; it's about love and death and how much, and how little, you can ever know someone else. And, like all the best autobiographies, its also about the need to remember. Offbeat, obsessive, and often killingly funny.”