Wednesday 18 July 2007

Animal Magic

Sorry my posts have been a little sporadic of late - I'm afraid that's going to continue for a while, as I'm off on several exciting little trips - to Momentum (a Christian student camp thing), a couple of friends' weddings, and Youth Hostelling with the Carbon Copy. Will try and get a few quick 'hello's in when I'm near a computer, but otherwise... To placate you, Patch has made a return, in cartoon form.

Anyway, plenty of books to chat about before I head away. And when writing about Three Men In A Boat, I got thinking about animals in literature - Montmorency the dog being rather a wonderfully co
mic creation... Animals must be quite a tricky thing to pull off successfully in a novel, especially if they're made to speak - even the idea of introducing animals to a book brings out all sorts of unpleasant connotations of whimsy and saccharine kittens (actually, I can never dislike kittens in any context; throw more of 'em into novels, I say). When done well, though, novelistic pets can be witty, illuminating about the other characters, and a very valid contribution to literature. My favourite has to be the cat in Ivy Compton-Burnett's Mother and Son - sardonic, selfish and unfeeling, he is the most sympathetic character in the novel. Any other animal favourites?

...and so, of course, I went to scout out some other books on my shelves. To be honest, the chosen tomes merely have animals in their titles, but that's a valid alternative...

1. Tortoise by Candlelight - Nina Bawden
2. The House of the Deer - DE Stevenson
3. Lady Into Fox - David Garnett
4. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Mark Haddon
5. Toad of Toad Hall - AA Milne
6. Mr. Fox - Barbara Comyns
7. Flaubert's Parrot - Julian Barnes
8. Love Among The Chickens - PG Wodehouse (my personal favourite title!)
9. Performing Flea - PG Wodehouse
10. Lobster Salad - Lynne Doyle
11. The Go-Away Bird - Muriel Spark
12. Animal Farm - George Orwell

So... which is your favourite animal in literature? And any other titles to contribute?


  1. How about Jennie by Paul Gallico? Boy wakes up to find he has turned into a cat but doesn't know how to behave. Meets Jennie, a homeless cat who teaches him all he needs to know most important of all being "whenin doubt, wash".

  2. You beat me to it! Jennie is a wonderful book. Lots of cats, some rather sinister (or more properly playing a disruptive role), in the novels of Colette.

  3. Another by Paul Gallico is The Snow Goose. Saw a film of it years ago with Jenny Agutter, I think. Linnets and Valerians by Elizabeth Goudge (oh dear both of these titles are of birds, doh) ok Little White Horse by E Goudge, Trabels with a Donkey - Charles Dickens; The Pale Horse - Agatha Chrisite; Five Little Pigs - also AC; Flush - Margaret Irwin; Black Beauty - Anna Sewell. I think I will stop now

  4. Interesting that Elaine feels that "animals" does not include birds. Surely one is a Kingdom (Animalia) and the other a member of a Phylum (Chordata) in that Kingdom? Comments?

  5. Peter - I have no comments to make whatever...I know my place!!

    I tend to think of animals as mammals so therefore birds are not animals but, well, birds..

    I think I will just declare my ignorance and say over to you

  6. Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson would have to be my favourite, though it's years since I read it. And Wind in the Willows and Watership Down. Do dragons count? probably not but if they do then I would have to nominate the Pern books by Anne McCaffrey.

  7. Pigtopia by Kitty Fitzgerald is a macabre but very poignant, memorable book. I read it a few years ago and it still lingers.

  8. R.L Stevenson's Modestine, Kafka Metamorphosis, Saki's Tobermory....but primus inter pares Don Marquis's creation of Archie the cockroach and Mehitabel the office cat. Archie types at night on DM's typewriter by leaping head first off the desk onto the next character on the keyboard. Wondrous.

  9. I like Tarka the Otter, it's really good.