Imagine what it would be like to have to constantly choose between your fiancé and your soul mate. This is the ever present predicament for Laura Joyce. She is engaged to Jim, dependable, clever and creative yet her best friend (and resident wild child) Tyler keeps pulling her to the dark (and arguably more fun) side.
The lifestyles chosen by Tyler and Jim couldn’t be more different and whilst Laura should be a natural balance between the both of them things just do not work out that way. When Laura is with Tyler she becomes party to a lifestyle of decadence; a Valhalla of drama, drink and drugs – all of which she overindulges in.
Then there is her life with Jim. She almost becomes a different person; Laura enjoys his stability and his assuredness; all the kind of things that Tyler despises, and she makes her feelings known.
You do get the sense that Laura feels that she is dependent on Tyler that she needs her yet as the story reaches its conclusion you realise it is the complete opposite. Tyler needs somebody, anybody really, just justify her antics. Animals shows us how friendships, even the closest say-things-with-a-look-and-finish-each-others-sentences friendships are not always the healthiest things. It also reminds us that growing up is not the harshest thing to ever happen.
Personally, I felt that Animals is a story about choices. I found myself urging Laura to make the right choice, to not go to another reckless party with Tyler or to not take any of the emotional blackmail that Jim threw her way and as the story develops we watch Laura unfold in front of us and grow into the most rational of the characters. She takes the better elements of Jim and Tyler and forms a better version of herself.
Overall, I would say this is one of the funniest books that I have read all year. I do feel that the translation of the humour comes from the fact that I identified with both Laura and Tyler due to their station in life. They both are growing older but aren’t quite sure how to actually grow up…gracefully at least. It is another literary triumph from Unsworth.
Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth is available now.