Wednesday, March 25

They're Only Human - James Grieve

While Susie and her mother travel through France they're both shocked when a bull fighting exhibition ends in the prolonged deaths of two Spanish bulls. When Susie meets up with Boris, a boy who was also at the event, she's attracted to him but she's also attracted to her French teacher, Mr Laramour. Mr Laramour is a strong support of animal rights, which causes particular conflict for Susie, the daughter of a scientist who uses animals in her experiments.
I was attracted to the premise, and the questions raised on the back cover (including "Is it better to be a dead mouse or a dead baby?" "Is cruelty to animals worse than cruelty to human beings?" and "Do animal lovers really like people?" among others) - they're presumably addressed in the book, and are interesting ethical questions about which great philosophers are still in conflict.
However, I found the writing style impossible to work through. Stolid and leaden, I couldn't make it as far as page thirty, which is a shame because the reviewer on Amazon seems to agree with Pam Macintyre (whoever she is), who thought They're Only Animals was wonderfully droll... satirical... patterned as colourfully and intricately as a mosaic
There's apparently a sexual relationship between Susie (who's fourteen, though I had no idea of this from the portion I read to) and her adult teacher, who also leads his students into acts of increasing violence and cruelty. Sorry I missed it, but revisiting the novel just long enough to remind myself while writing this review was enough labour. - Alex

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