A taut and atmospheric read, an exploration of captivity, sacrifice and survival in a post-apocalyptic world ... Simply and effectively structured ... Fuller holds up a dark mirror to the pandemic ... Fuller writes brilliantly about desire and the heady beginnings of new relationships ... The superb ending ties everything together with a moving, tragic cohesiveness. The bleak twists and sudden shifts forward in time feel earned and in keeping with the world Fuller has created. As her caged animals make a bid for freedom, the reader will applaud their attempts to keep going against the likelihood of their endless numbered days.
It’s a neat trick that Fuller pulls off, weaving together so many familiar threads, from the post-pandemic storyline to the extremity-in-isolation scenario to the life story reconceived under duress, and yet coming up with a new and promising pattern — an authorial performance in keeping with her generous character.
Despite some promising themes and motifs, this is an uneven novel. In part, that’s a reflection of the characters’ states of mind ... Rather gimmicky devices ... The timing of this book’s publication suggests it was written at least partly during Covid lockdowns, when we were all getting a taste of the tense, sealed-in scenarios that Fuller’s fiction ordinarily probes with such mesmerising acuity. Could that be why it seems to struggle with forward momentum?
Fuller fashions a lucid narrative, rich in ideas. But it splays its limbs in many different directions ...
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The pandemic novel evidently appealed to this explorer of private, locked-down worlds. In the end, though, the plague theme limits rather than liberates her voice. It will surely break free again.
Fuller is skilled at world-building...Yet the urban landscape outside the medical unit in The Memory of Animals remains largely unexplored, and despite her talent for rendering uneasy intimacies in stifling situations, even the dynamics between the five entrapped strangers are not fully fleshed out ... The Memory of Animals lacks the page-turning propulsion seen elsewhere in Fuller’s oeuvre.
If you’re going to write a pandemic novel this late in the day, then by God you’d better make it stand out. The Memory of Animals...stands out all right, but unfortunately for the wrong reasons ... A novella pumped up with the steroids of backstory and artificially enhanced with bizarre sub-elements ... I’m afraid the most vivid thought The Memory of Animals left me with was that if civilisation was brought to a screeching halt — and novels with it — well, maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
Fuller is best when describing the slow unraveling of the hospital group. The other sections are distracting and feel disjointed. Nevertheless, the novel makes us ponder what we owe each other as humans. It turns out the kindness of strangers can only take us so far.
Fuller expertly grapples with the sickeningly real personal and ethical complexities of human survival. In the end, however, she seems to trade her attention to nuance for an ill-defined, ethereal optimism, especially in the hurried conclusion. The novel may end on a hopeful note, but in doing so, it compromises its potential to be a great post-apocalyptic novel and instead rises just above the recent spate of pandemic-inspired narratives. A memorable meditation on how the human struggle to survive in captivity is not so different than that of our animal kin.
Haunting ... The entwined pain and pleasure of memory is at the heart of Neffy’s story, as is the hard work of establishing trust and finding forgiveness, particularly for oneself. This is a pandemic novel, yes, but one that radically transcends the label.