ELLE Book Club pick: Animals

Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth (canongate)

The ELLE Book Club in Association with the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction: June #ELLEBookClub pick

You know how it is. Saturday afternoon. You wake up and you can't move.”

With shades of Lena Dunham’s Girls and novels such as Baileys Women’s Prize longlisted How Should a Person Be by Sheila Heti, and lauded as ‘Withnail for girls’ by Caitlin Moran, Animals is the irreverant, raucous story of two best friends. Laura lives in Manchester with uninhibited and reckless Tyler, where she doesn’t write her novel about a priest who falls in love with a pig and instead drinks a copious amount and regularly indulges in recreational drug use. She’s engaged to Jim, a teetotal concert pianist who travels a lot and is constantly chiding her about being irresponsible.

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Animals is a window into Laura's life and while there are key events that shape the plot, this is essentially a sharply-drawn character portrait and exploration of being a young woman today. Laura is torn in the ongoing battle between the chaotic allure of best friend Tyler and the pull of sensible decisions and settling down with Jim. It is also laugh-out-loud funny - Unsworth has a talent for the observation of the mundane, describing things in a way that is both incredibly familiar and sublimely ridiculous. In the face of temptation Laura says: “Inside me, a chorus line of devils in tutus did a fast little cancan.” But among the wonderfully witty one-liners are beautifully observed moments of sadness and loss. Describing long-term relationships, Laura says: "Give me a glance between two lovers and I will show you a hundred heartbreaks and reconciliations, a thousand tallies and trump cards."

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An utterly triumphant ode to female friendship, in all its intense, messy and powerful beauty.

Review by by Anna James, recommendations editor of Go Book Yourself

Downloadthis month's ELLE Book Club pack, including guidance on how to start your own book club, a Q&A with author Emma Jane Unsworth, and discussion points

Read the Baileys Prize Shortlist here

Read an interview with The Quick author Lauren Owen

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