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An animal's-eye view of humans at our brutal worst and our creative best, Only the Animals asks us to believe again in the redemptive power of reading and writing fiction.

Exquisitely written, playful and poignant, Only the Animals is a remarkable literary achievement by the award-winning Ceridwen Dovey, one of our brightest young writers.
'The most original, surprising and inspired book I read this year.' Stephen Romei, Weekend Australian
Perhaps only the animals can tell us what it is to be human.

The souls of ten animals caught up in human conflicts over the last century tell their astonishing stories of life and death. 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. In the siege of Sarajevo a bear starving to death tells a fairytale. And a dolphin sent to Iraq by the US Navy writes a letter to Sylvia Plath ...

An animal's-eye view of humans at our brutal worst and our creative best, Only the Animals asks us to believe again in the redemptive power of reading and writing fiction.

'Only the Animals is mesmerizing and exhilarating, funny and moving. It has elements of strangeness and greatness, like Kafka. Dovey's exquisitely drawn creatures grapple nobly with their animal natures, a genius point of view from which to illuminate how we humans – ostensibly conscious and verbal – are trapped in ours. This book feels like a major mind announcing itself.' Anna Funder

'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

Reviews

A remarkable book ... Each of these finely written stories nudges us towards greater empathy with our fellow animals ... Confirms [Dovey] as a singular talent.

Stephen Romei, Weekend Australian

Extraordinary ... An audacious work of the imagination ... Funny, tragic, smart, arch, poignant and playful all at once.

Catherine Armitage, The Age

'The emotional heat here is pitched at Bunsen burner blue

PRH, PRH

Exquisitely written, playful and poignant, Only the Animals is a remarkable literary achievement by the award-winning Ceridwen Dovey, one of our brightest young writers.

PRH, PRH

Perhaps only the animals can tell us what it is to be human. The souls of ten animals caught up in human conflicts over the last century tell their astonishing stories of life and death. 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. In the siege of Sarajevo a bear starving to death tells a fairytale. And a dolphin sent to Iraq by the US Navy writes a letter to Sylvia Plath . . . Exquisitely written, playful and poignant, 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.

PRH, PRH

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

An audacious work of the imagination ... An extraordinary series of fabulist tales ... The yarns are funny, magic, smart, arch, poignant and playful all at once.

The Saturday Age

The emotional heat here is pitched at Bunsen burner blue – hard and clear, without a flicker of showy sentiment – while the main criticism that might be launched against such stories, that they traffic in a naive anthropomorphism, is checked at every move by a rigorous deployment of contemporary developments in animal psychology and neuroscience. The best of the stories are not only smart in a modern, scientific sense, however; they keep one foot in the older, folkloric tradition of animal stories, and in a wonder that is as old as our species ... What Dovey ventures is to rescue animals from the cultural margins. To be seen by animals is a profound inversion of the situation where it is we who do the watching. The results are sometimes profound, and always powerfully disconcerting.

Weekend Australian

'The emotional heat here is pitched at Bunsen burner blue – hard and clear, without a flicker of showy sentiment

PRH, PRH

I was unprepared for the anarchic brilliance of this wonderful book. Dovey persuades us of her characters as she teeters on the edge of sentimentality, but in the next breath she dances back and Only the Animals becomes a kind of conversation that anticipates the reader's - at least, this reader's – response and parries it ... it is an examination: there is palpable restraint on the page and Dovey draws no conclusions. Only the Animals is a glorious imaginative leap, not into the minds of animals, but into our own. The idea that fiction can be both playful and intelligent should not be so surprising ... It's layered and astonishing and far and away the best thing I've read this year. Dovey has a particular talent for mixing exuberance and melancholy in the one story without tonal jerks or jars, and this story sparkles on the page ... It's beautiful writing, but besides that, it's enthralling. Most writers don't generate this much genuine emotion over the course of an entire career ... It's clever work, but it's never tricky for the sake of it. This kind of writing is the fictional equivalent of walking a high wire without a net ... As a collection, Only the Animals works as a journey into empathy that, for all its ideas, never neglects the basics of fiction: showing readers in beautiful words compelling characters who do fascinating things ... To get away with that kind of self-referential nudging, the work has to be very good and the writer, very brave. Only the Animals makes much contemporary fiction seem stodgy and grey, and Dovey has put everything on the line here. It's a remarkable achievement.

The Saturday Paper

Exquisitely written, playful and poignant, Only the Animals is a remarkable literary achievement by the award-winning Ceridwen Dovey, one of our brightest young writers.

PRH, PRH

Only the Animals doesn't behave like a novel. It slips between categories ... [and] both defies and celebrates the possibilities of the form ... it is an ambitious book with a fable-like surface, and a whole churning world beneath ... [confirming] Dovey's talent ... [the book is] heartbreaking and riveting ... painfully beautiful ... That the prose still sparkles, and that the stories pull at the heart, despite the somewhat awkward, weighty premise, is a remarkable achievement ... Dovey voices the uncomfortable, she speaks the unspeakable, through the shifting mouthpiece of these animals.

Romy Ash, The Guardian

Perhaps only the animals can tell us what it is to be human. The souls of ten animals caught up in human conflicts over the last century tell their astonishing stories of life and death. 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. In the siege of Sarajevo a bear starving to death tells a fairytale. And a dolphin sent to Iraq by the US Navy writes a letter to Sylvia Plath . . . Exquisitely written, playful and poignant, 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.

PRH, PRH

A suite of associatively linked stories that dares this imaginative leap. It is a haunted book ... [with] a subtler play of awareness and self-awareness ... [and] a bravura flair for pastiche ... Only the Animals is a form of lyrical anthropology, a partial but generous approach to the changing significances of animals in our literary imaginations ... This is a book of consistently good stories deftly told, full of drama and emotion ... [with] an attractive unity of purpose that suggests more than the sum of its parts, a greater consciousness, perhaps, hovering somewhere between heartbreak and hopefulness, wisdom and wonderment.

Canberra Times

'Only the Animals is mesmerizing and exhilarating, funny and moving. It has elements of strangeness and greatness, like Kafka. Dovey's exquisitely drawn creatures grapple nobly with their animal natures, a genius point of view from which to illuminate how we humans – ostensibly conscious and verbal – are trapped in ours. This book feels like a major mind announcing itself.' Anna Funder '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

PRH, PRH

Dovey is a natural storyteller ... The author's portrayals of human–animal interactions evoke images of lasting beauty and power ... Whether you agree with Dovey's approach to humans and animals or not, no one interested in either will be sorry to have read this book.

Sam Cadman, Australian Book Review

'An audacious work of the imagination . . . An extraordinary series of fabulist tales . . . The yarns are funny, tragic, smart, arch, poignant and playful all at once.' The Saturday Age

PRH, PRH

A strange and beautiful work ... Each story is self-contained, but each is far richer – in terms of emotional and philosophical resonance – for its proximity to the others. To put it another way: Only the Animals is a perfectly integrated work of art brilliantly disguised as a collection of short stories.

Richard King, The Monthly

Dovey has created a masterpiece, a tapestry of voices so strong that it's impossible not to mourn when each story comes to an end ... At no point do these creature-characters ring false ... Dovey is a writer of vast imagination and intelligence ... [managing] to shed new light on these voices and their ideas ... Halfway through the Kerouac-ian story of a mussel hitching rides around the coast of America you realise that you are in the hands of a genius. Sure, you'll laugh, but the astonishing thing is that you will empathise, too.

Adelaide Advertiser

We challenge you not to get caught up.

Elle

Wholly extraordinary.

Michelle de Krester

While the main criticism that might be launched against such stories, that they traffic in a naive anthropomorphism, is checked at every move by a rigorous deployment of contemporary developments in animal psychology and neuroscience. The best of the stories are not only smart in a modern, scientific sense, they keep one foot in the older, folkloric tradition of animal stories, and in a wonder that is as old as our species ... What Dovey ventures is to rescue animals from the cultural margins. To be seen by animals is a profound inversion of the situation where it is we who do the watching. The results are sometimes profound, and always powerfully disconcerting.

Weekend Australian

Hard and clear, without a flicker of showy sentiment. The results are sometimes profound, and always powerfully disconcerting.

Geordie Williamson, Weekend Australian

Remarkable ... A form of lyrical anthropology, a partial but generous approach to the changing significances of animals in our literary imaginations ... This is a book of consistently good stories deftly told, full of drama and emotion ... There is an attractive unity of purpose that suggests more than the sum of its parts, a greater consciousness, perhaps, hovering somewhere between heartbreak and hopefulness, wisdom and wonderment.

Andrew Fuhrmann, Canberra Times

A masterpiece... Dovey is a writer of vast imagination and intelligence ... Halfway through the Kerouacian story of a mussel hitching rides around the coast of America you realise that you are in the hands of a genius.

Margot Lloyd, The Advertiser (Adelaide)

Dazzling ... An ambitious book with a fable-like surface, and a whole churning world beneath.

Romy Ash, The Guardian (Australia)

Dovey hits exactly the right note ... each animal is a joy to encounter. These storytellers are smart and thoughtful, self-aware in a playful, endearing way. Even as Dovey appropriates human ideas of animals, she also subverts and challenges these same ideas ... There's plenty of humour in these stories ... Many of these stories caught me off-guard in their concluding paragraphs – in finishing some, I was so startlingly moved it was as if I had been winded ... This is fiction at its very imaginative best.

Bronte Coates, Readings Monthly

Startlingly original and imaginative ... Dovey is a natural storyteller, and her skilled use of animal 'others' to highlight discrete aspects of human conflicts throws the obscured, terrifying whole into stark relief.

Australian Book Review

'I was unprepared for the anarchic brilliance of this wonderful book. Dovey persuades us of her characters as she teeters on the edge of sentimentality, but in the next breath she dances back and Only the Animals becomes a kind of conversation that anticipates the reader's - at least, this reader's – response and parries it . . . it is an examination: there is palpable restraint on the page and Dovey draws no conclusions. Only the Animals is a glorious imaginative leap, not into the minds of animals, but into our own. The idea that fiction can be both playful and intelligent should not be so surprising . . . It's layered and astonishing and far and away the best thing I've read this year. Dovey has a particular talent for mixing exuberance and melancholy in the one story without tonal jerks or jars, and this story sparkles on the page . . . It's beautiful writing, but besides that, it's enthralling. Most writers don't generate this much genuine emotion over the course of an entire career… It's clever work, but it's never tricky for the sake of it. This kind of writing is the fictional equivalent of walking a high wire without a net . . . As a collection, Only the Animals works as a journey into empathy that, for all its ideas, never neglects the basics of fiction: showing readers in beautiful words compelling characters who do fascinating things . . . To get away with that kind of self-referential nudging, the work has to be very good and the writer, very brave. Only the Animals makes much contemporary fiction seem stodgy and grey, and Dovey has put everything on the line here. It's a remarkable achievement.' The Saturday Paper

PRH, PRH

A strange and beautiful work ... Each story is self-contained, but each is far richer – in terms of emotional and philosophical resonance – for its proximity to the others. To put it another way: Only the Animals is a perfectly integrated work of art brilliantly disguised as a collection of short stories.

Richard King, The Monthly

'Only the Animals doesn't behave like a novel. It slips between categories . . . [and] both defies and celebrates the possibilities of the form . . . it is an ambitious book with a fable-like surface, and a whole churning world beneath . . . [confirming] Dovey's talent . . . [the book is] heartbreaking and riveting . . . painfully beautiful . . . That the prose still sparkles, and that the stories pull at the heart, despite the somewhat awkward, weighty premise, is a remarkable achievement . . . Dovey voices the uncomfortable, she speaks the unspeakable, through the shifting mouthpiece of these animals.' Romy Ash, for The Guardian

PRH, PRH

Absorbing ... a light touch and no trace of sentimentality.

J.M. Coetzee

'A suite of associatively linked stories that dares this imaginative leap. It is a haunted book . . . [with] a subtler play of awareness and self-awareness . . . [and] a bravura flair for pastiche . . . Only the Animals is a form of lyrical anthropology, a partial but generous approach to the changing significances of animals in our literary Imaginations . . . This is a book of consistently good stories deftly told, full of drama and emotion . . . [with] an attractive unity of purpose that suggests more than the sum of its parts, a greater consciousness, perhaps, hovering somewhere between heartbreak and hopefulness, wisdom and wonderment.' Canberra Times

PRH, PRH

Surely one of the boldest Australian short-story collections in recent years ... Here is a rare beast – a work of fiction that is not only richly imaginative, but also intelligent, ambitious and universal in theme. Ceridwen Dovey has created a book that wears its literary antecedents – Kafka, Colette, Woolf, Coetzee – lightly, but with each story she proves that Only the Animals belongs in this sort of company.

Readings New Australian Writing Award judges' comments

'Dovey is a natural storyteller . . . The author's portrayals of human–animal interactions evoke images of lasting beauty and power . . . Whether you agree with Dovey's approach to humans and animals or not, no one interested in either will be sorry to have read this book.' Sam Cadman, Australian Book Review

PRH, PRH

As layered as an onion, Only the Animals will repay the careful reader tenfold ... Powerful, almost mythic, and deeply disturbing.

Michelle Thomas, South Coast Register

'A strange and beautiful work . . . Each story is self-contained, but each is far richer – in terms of emotional and philosophical resonance – for its proximity to the others. To put it another way: Only the Animals is a perfectly integrated work of art brilliantly disguised as a collection of short stories.' Richard King, The Monthly

PRH, PRH

'Dovey has created a masterpiece, a tapestry of voices so strong that it's impossible not to mourn when each story comes to an end . . . At no point do these creature-characters ring false . . . Dovey is a writer of vast imagination and intelligence . . . [managing] to shed new light on these voices and their ideas . . . Halfway through the Kerouac-ian story of a mussel hitching rides around the coast of America you realise that you are in the hands of a genius. Sure, you'll laugh, but the astonishing thing is that you will empathise, too.' Adelaide Advertiser

PRH, PRH

'We challenge you not to get caught up.' Elle

PRH, PRH

'Wholly extraordinary.' Michelle de Krester

PRH, PRH

'I was unprepared for the anarchic brilliance of this wonderful book . . . . Only the Animals is a glorious imaginative leap, not into the minds of animals, but into our own . . . The most successful of the collection . . . is layered and astonishing and far and away the best thing I've read this year . . . Most writers don't generate this much genuine emotion over the course of an entire career . . . Only the Animals makes much contemporary fiction seem stodgy and grey, and Dovey has put everything on the line here. It's a remarkable achievement.' The Saturday Paper

PRH, PRH

'We challenge you not to get caught up.' Elle magazine

PRH, PRH

Only the Animals is mesmerizing and exhilarating, funny and moving. It has elements of strangeness and greatness, like Kafka. Dovey's exquisitely drawn creatures grapple nobly with their animal natures, a genius point of view from which to illuminate how we humans – ostensibly conscious and verbal – are trapped in ours. This book feels like a major mind announcing itself.

Anna Funder

'Wholly extraordinary.' Michelle de Krester

PRH, PRH

'Mesmerizing and exhilarating, funny and moving. This book feels like a major mind announcing itself.' Anna Funder

PRH, PRH

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback

    9780143573012

    February 25, 2015

    Penguin

    256 pages

    RRP $19.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • 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

    9781743483800

    April 23, 2014

    Penguin eBooks

    304 pages

    Online retailers

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

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

Awards and Recognition

  • Queensland Literary Awards
    2014
    Winner
    Best Short Story Collection
  • NSW Premier's Literary Awards
    2015
    Shortlisted
    Christina Stead Prize for Fiction
  • Victorian Premier's Literary Award
    2015
    Shortlisted
    Best Fiction

Also by Ceridwen Dovey

In the Garden of the Fugitives
Blood Kin

Recommendations

The Handmaid's Tale
To Kill A Mockingbird
Echo Burning
A Gentleman in Moscow
Best Laid Plans
Uncommon Type
The Girl on the Train
The Narrow Road to the Deep North
The Golden House
Dragonfly In Amber
The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-time
Swing Time
The Golden Age
The Mistress
Tiger Men
Fifty Shades Darker
A Long Way from Home
The Trip of a Lifetime
Colombiano
The Travelling Cat Chronicles