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‘It might be the best book on animals I have ever read. It’s also the only one that made me laugh out loud.’ Helen Macdonald, author of His for Hawk

Beginning with Yuka, a 39,000-year-old mummified woolly mammoth recently found in the Siberian permafrost, each of the sixteen essays in Animals Strike Curious Poses investigates a different famous animal named and immortalised by humans. Here are the starling that inspired Mozart with its song, Darwin’s tortoise Harriet, and in an extraordinary essay, Jumbo the elephant (and how they tried to electrocute him). Modelled loosely on a medieval bestiary, these witty , playful, provocative essays traverse history, myth, science and more, introducing a stunning new writer to British readers.

Reviews

I’ve spent decades reading books on the roles animals play in human cultures, but none have ever made me think, and feel, as much as this one. It’s a devastating meditation on our relationship to the natural world. It might be the best book on animals I’ve ever read. It’s also the only one that’s made me laugh out loud.

Helen Macdonald, New York Times Book Review

Stunning... Passarello’s keen wit is on display throughout as she raises questions about the uniqueness of humans.... A feast of surprising juxtapositions and gorgeous prose.

Publishers Weekly, starred review

This phenomenal collection documents the lives of particular animals from a wide range of species… Passarello treats her subjects with dextrous care, weaving narratives together in a way that investigates, honours, and complicates her subjects… Passarello has created a consistently original, thoroughly researched, altogether fascinating compendium.

Booklist, starred review

In Animals Strike Curious Poses Elena Passarello spins fantastic, wondrous, and true tall tales about species big and small. Her essays are dream-spaces of imagery and ideas…. This book will leave little doubt that Passarello is one our country’s most gifted young prose writers.

Héctor Tobar, author of Deep Down Dark and The Barbarian Nurseries

Animals Strike Curious Poses turns the bestiary inside out, holds the mummified mammoth heart up against our own, and, from the braided ventricles, springboards into intoxicating and animated meditations on our penchant for ownership via naming... This book is a gift to us from one of the best, most important, and most exciting essayists of the 21st century.

Matthew Gavin Frank, author of The Mad Feast and Preparing the Ghost: An Essay Concerning the Giant Squid and Its First Photographer

In 16 powerful, impressionistic essays, Elena Passarello gathers a multitude of these close encounters. From the “near-bestiary” roving ancient Europe to the brave new world of rewilding, she brilliantly explores the conflicts and cruelties inherent in our fascination with animal otherness.

Barbara Kiser, Nature

Animals Strike Curious Poses is...about the nature of the human-animal bonds – and thus (scaringly and excitingly) about the nature of humans… This is no arid thesis. Passarello is sassy but tender; smart, angry, and wondering. She takes nothing at face value, which is as exhausting as a proper book should be… “Come here, Elena Marie,”, says a goat with a deformed horn. “Look into my eyes. Can you ever believe all the ways you and I were made for each other?” This urgent and uncomfortable questions runs throughout this profound and profoundly unsettling book. The more you don’t want to read the book, the more you need to do so.

Charles Foster, Oldie

Extraordinary… Although these animal case histories lodge under the label of “essay”, Passarello tests and stretches the form in thrilling ways. Particularly brilliant – but, honestly, they are all brilliant – is an extended fantasy written from the point of view of Harriet, the Galapagos tortoise who Darwin reportedly brought back on the Beagle… All this might come off as charming but essentially whimsical were it not for the fact that Passarello underpins her wild imagination and pyrotechnic prose with rigorous research. She doesn’t do footnotes, but an extensive bibliography of 255 sources bears witness to the huge accumulation of reading that has gone into her book.

Kathryn Hughes, Guardian

In innovative hands, such as those of Claudia Rankine or Joanna Walsh, the essay can be more than simply a subjective non-fiction disquisition, and a suite of them can add up to far more than the sum of its parts. This is the case with Elena Passarello’s playful, shrewd and illuminating collection Animals Strike Curious Poses… She alludes to her reasons for turning her attention to animals, but thankfully avoids the irritating cliché of over-justifying the project with laboured reference to her own “story”. Passarello’s cultural perceptiveness and skill as an essayist, breathtaking at times, are justification enough… Passarello is at her best when subtly dissecting modern cultural mores and attitudes to animals… These essays dance along the margins of what is humanly possible when it comes to understanding other forms of life.

Melissa Harrison, Financial Times

There’s a great depth of knowledge contained within, and you will come away from it with a lot of new questions as well as answers, so wide-ranging is Passarello’s curiosity about the natural world and our own psychology and behavior.

Matt Merritt, Bird Watching

An arresting book of essays… Imagining the moments in our history when animals got into our collective neocortex, and how they transformed us and we transformed them.

Jennie Erin Smith, The Times Literary Supplement

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback

    9781784707354

    November 15, 2018

    Vintage

    256 pages

    RRP $22.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Amazon
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • Hardback

    9781787330306

    October 30, 2017

    Jonathan Cape

    256 pages

    RRP $29.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Amazon
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook

    9781473549494

    November 2, 2017

    Vintage Digital

    256 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks
    • Amazon Kindle
    • Booktopia
    • eBooks
    • Google Play
    • Kobo