Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Review: Various Pets Alive & Dead

Author: Marina Lewyca
Series: -
UK Publisher: Penguin
Published: 2012
Format: Paperback

Marcus and Doro were part of a commune from the late 1960s until the early 1990s: lentils, free love, spliffs, radical politics, cheesecloth blouses, sex, housework and cooking rotas, crochet, allotments. Their children have grown up rather different from them: primary schoolteacher Clara craves order and clean bathrooms, son Serge is pretending to his parents that he is still doing a Maths PhD at Cambridge, while in fact working making loadsa money in the City; while third child Oolie Anna, who has Downs Syndrome, is desperate to escape home and live on her own. Once the truth starts breaking through, who knows what further secrets will be revealed about any of them?

This book revolves more around social talking points than in depth plot and character development; it highlights the idea of living in a communal setting in the late 1960s, and the trials and tribulations that go alongside it. It details how these people lived, their views and opinions on the situation, and how different generations react to these living conditions.

In the past I've been more into fantasy fiction with overly complicated plot lines and mythical creatures, so when it came to the start of this book I was hugely skeptical. The skepticism was started when I was introduced into the world of marketing and economics, (two areas of which I have a complete and utter disinterest in) with Serge - I have read books before, and got extremely bored with talk of money, politics and other general topics, but with this one I thought it was strangely interesting, and found that I was learning a massive amount about finance along the way.

The idea of learning was a big one for me when reading this book; as well as the finance aspect, I felt as though I was learning about a different way of life and of living, which compared to my own, is extremely strange to me. Their ideologies, their habits, their lifestyle; it all seemed so alien to me that it was ridiculously intriguing. Learning and critiquing about other peoples lifestyle choices makes you really think about your own more than you would have before.

Nothing and everything happened in this book - it was mainly spent with the characters reminiscing about things that had happened in the past at the commune where they all lived. There was, however, a sub plot for each character which highlighted things about their personalities and how they've grown since their commune days. This change of topic was not a relief but a refreshing change to the anecdotes that were remembered from the past.

Various Pets Alive & Dead is a wonderful book, and being something that I would not normally pick up, I am most certainly glad that I did.


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