Cover Image: Animal Spirit

Animal Spirit

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Member Reviews

Animal Spirit is such a gorgeous, clear-eyed portrayal of the complexities of the human experience, and in each story, these multitudes of feelings and schemes and plans for the future become tied in with the freedom and simplicity of animals. Animals, and especially birds, are used to refer to inner strength and a return to wildness that's been lost from the human characters.

I adore story collections set in a very specific place, where the setting almost becomes another character or the story itself, not a backdrop used for convenience. Setting many of the stories in Rome or the characters having to go back home to Rome was actually sort of intimate, due to the respect and warmth toward the setting. And using animals as a recurring symbol? That is my Achilles heel.

My favorite stories were "The Girl" and "Indian Land". Those two just really delivered gutpunches and I was--but I wasn't--expecting either of their ends. The characterization and the usage of setting was phenomenal and succinct. Pretty much every single story was a 4 or a 4.5 star story, but the one that felt unfinished was "There Might Be Blood". It was also good, but it felt like it was missing a couple of pages of development or resolution.
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2.5 stars 

I feel like the premise of each story were interesting but the writing style really threw me off starting from the first story. I also felt like the transition of pov was really disorienting and would take me out of the story when I was trying to figure whose head we were in. And the deeper I got into the collection the more annoyed and frustrated I got because the stories started off really strong but then the writing style would lessen my interest, as well the story would then fall into a bit of melodrama.

Book given by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
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Thank you Net Galley and Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group for this digital ARC in exchange for an honest review!

⭐.5/5. Rounded down to a 1.

Honestly, I should have DNF:ed this one, so I feel a bit bad giving it such a bad rating when I know there are people out there who would really enjoy these stories, but hear me out.

This was the synopsis Goodreads provided the book:

Centered in Rome but transporting us into worlds as varied and alluring as they are emotionally real, Francesca Marciano's stories paint landscapes that are populated--vividly, hauntingly--by animals: from violent seagulls and starlings circling the evening sky in exhilarating formation to magical snakes and a tiny dog on the side of a deserted road.

In unforgettable, cinematic frames, events unfold, especially in the lives of women. An affair ends painfully at a dinner table, an actress's past comes crashing down on her during an audition, an unhappy wife seeks respite in a historic palazzo sublet. Two starkly different couples imagine parenthood during a Greek island holiday and a young girl returns from rehab, deciding to set out anew with a traveling circus. A man in crisis draws his ex-lover deep into the New Mexico desert.

With spellbinding clarity, the six masterly stories in Animal Spirit inhabit the minds and hearts of Marciano's characters. They chronicle deeply human moments of realization and recognition, indelible instants of irrevocable change--epiphanies sometimes sparked by our connection with animals and the primal power they show us.

Given the title of the book and this synopsis, I felt a bit cheated when only half of the stories actually contained animals. I thought the stories were going to be a bit more gritty whilst exploring the animal instinct in humans, and I was a bit disappointed when that wasn’t the case. This, however, wasn’t the biggest issue I had with these stories.

The thing is, I was just so bored throughout the whole thing. Every time I started a new story, I was waiting for something to hook and reel me in, but nothing ever did. The Girl, Indian Land and The Callback had me a bit in the beginning, but it wore off pretty quickly, which was a shame. I also didn’t connect with the writing. Somehow it managed to be descriptive without evoking an atmospheric setting for me, which is something I highly value in books.

The few things I did like weren't worth dragging myself through the rest, unfortunately.
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Francesca Marciano's earlier novel Casa Rossa is one of my all-time favourite novels and this collection of short stories didn't disappoint. Written with an original viewpoint these stories get to the heart of human connections with each other and with the animals we share our world with. Marciano's background in films gives her stories a vivid sparkle and a European sensibility.
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I enjoyed this book. It took some time to get into the stories, as the Author has a unique writing style, somewhat stern, and matter of fact. But, the stories were engaging and interesting. All of the stories, involve humans and animals. I thought she did an excellent job, making the correlation.
I particularly enjoyed the 2nd story, "There May be Blood". A woman vacationing in Rome, unhappy in her marriage and separated from her husband. She discovers a flock of seagulls living on her terrace, who are threatening and dangerous. She hires a falconer to tame the seagulls and he unwittingly, dies a horrible death. Its clear her rage and spite for her husband leads to the demise of the falconer. 
Very well done!
I look forward to reading other works by this Author.

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When I received the opportunity to review Francesca Marciano’s second short story collection ‘Animal Spirits’, I was reading her debut story collection ‘The Other Language’. I have loved Marciano’s keenly-observed, descriptive and elegant writing ever since I read her novel, ‘Casa Rossa’, for which she was the recipient of the Rapallo Carige Prize in 2003.

Enchanting and spellbinding, Marciano’s vividly painted, very different six stories in ‘Animal Spirits’ are set in Italy, New Mexico and on a Greek Island. From screeching seagulls, a flight of swallows and a falcon to a puppy on a Grecian island called Hermes and a seven-foot Burmese python named Snow, the stories are populated with animals, which, at times, lead into the jungle of rage, instinct and desire within each of us, and explore the ways people’s animalistic instincts drive relationships.

This collection is remarkable for its range of emotional registers together with the unsettling atmospheres which surround the characters. An affair ends painfully at a dinner table (‘Terrible Things Could Happen to Us’); a young girl returns from rehab, deciding to set out anew with a travelling circus (‘The Girl’); two starkly different couples imagine parenthood during a Greek island holiday after co-parenting a lost puppy (‘Animal Spirit’); a man in crises draws his ex-lover deep into the New Mexico desert (‘Indian Land’); an unhappy wife from New York seeks respite in a historic palazzo sublet (‘There Might Be Blood’), and an actress’s past comes crashing down on her during an audition (‘The Callback’).

Diving into a good short story is a transformative experience. They are more than just a quick fix of fiction for the time-strapped. When crafted well, they allow us to immerse ourselves in strange minds and foreign worlds.

A huge thank you to @NetGalley and @PantheonBooks for a review copy of ‘Animal Spirits’ in exchange for an honest review.
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Often short stories are a hit or a miss for me, and this for me was a miss. I just didn`t enjoy them as much as i had hoped.
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Animal Spirit by Francesca Marciano is a beautiful little gem filled with short stories inspired from life. I particularly found the one about Teo in the New Mexican desert to be totally heartbreaking. It reminded me of someone I once knew. Sometimes you just can’t help anymore.
Thank you to the publisher for the opportunity to read and advanced copy!!
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Lovely book, written with heart and soul. Can't wait to read more from this author.  I wish more animals were throughout the stories but still enjoyed this regardless.
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Animal Spirit is a collection of 6 short stories. Marciano’s characters are imperfect and real, unlike characters written for fictional purposes, they are flawed and visceral. The emotional parts are brilliantly imagined with animal characteristics. These are short stories, so don’t expect a definite start and end point. They make the reader think and feel!! The synopsis made this sound like a magical realism story, but it wasn’t which was a disappointment for me, because I love realism stories/novels. I have to check out more of Marciano’s works

Thank you Pantheon/Double day books and Netgalley for the arc in exchange for an honest opinion.
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this was a really enjoyable read, the characters were great and I really enjoyed going on this journey. I look forward to more from the author.
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I loved this book. I don’t normally go for story collections, but I really like Francesa Marciano’s writing, and ‘Animal Spirit’ plays well to her strengths. Marciano writes superbly about relationships, and the fraught emotions that travel on new adventures with each human pairing. And with non-human pairings, too. The animals who appear in these pages catalyze the drama, and also evoke the animalistic urges and reactions within humans. Her first book ‘Rules of the Wild’ had the best title, but ‘Animal Spirit’ shows an even more skilled writer at work. Highly recommended.
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This is a lovely collection of short stories. Marciano's character development is great - these are real flawed human characters, facing very relatable dilemmas. I also really admire her range, as the 6 stories in the collection are all very distinct from on another, and each have their own unique characters and plots and landscapes and descriptions.

When I saw the blurb for this book I thought it would be very magical realism/surrealist which is not my thing, but i was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t! Animals play a smaller role in this book than i would have expected for a book of this title: the animals just kind of form a backdrop in this book, and act as nice symbols/metaphors within the each story. 

I generally enjoy Marciano’s writing style, it’s clear and accessible but her descriptions are still quite vivid. But there are definitely some bits that could be more polished e.g. some stories have a bit of a weird plot structure and jump between characters a lot; some endings are a bit cliche.

This wasn’t a “changed my life” short story collection but it did remind me how much i enjoy the genre!!
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Loved, loved every short story in Animal Spirit. Francesca Marciano is a talented writer. This is such an elegantly written book. Joy and heartache are  handled with an unsentimental pen, and touch your senses with human understanding.  

Read it, even if short stories isn't your usual fare
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Six spellbinding stories are in Author #Francesca Marciano’s new novel  ‘#Animal Spirit ‘.They chronicle 
deeply human moments of realization and recognition, indelible instants I’d irrevocable change- epiphanies sometimes sparked by our connection with animals and the primal power they show us.
She has many other books also that look so fascinating. So when your done with this wonderful novel you might take a look.
Thank you,
#Netgalley, #Francesca Marciano and #Penguin Random House
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I adore short story collections, especially ones like Animal Spirit that seem bound together by specific themes. Each story builds on the next, perhaps not with the same characters, but by developing a feeling or a message, until, by the end of the collection it is almost a rallying cry. Thanks to Knopf Doubleday and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The title story of Animal Spirit concerns a group of friends, made up of two couples, who go on a holiday together, where tensions slowly rise. All of this is alleviated when a little dog finds its way to them. Being able to care for something, almost selflessly, allows them to put their other worries and concerns to the side for a moment, to be better. In 'Terrible Things Could Happen to Us' Marciano shows us the end of a relationship from the perspectives of multiple people involved. Through all the perspectives the true consequences of such a fall out. In 'The Girl' a young woman, who remains nameless, escapes to the circus, before escaping once again. It's a story of someone in the search for freedom and home. In each story animal imagery comes to the fore to help highlight unspoken themes. In 'There Might Be Blood' aggressive seagulls and swooping falcons battle it out as a woman considers her marriage and life. In 'The Girl' a giant albino python is both constrictive and liberating. 

Marciano's stories stuck with me for a long time after I finished Animal Spirit, in a large part because she so effortlessly creates moments that shine. A mother and her daughters, waiting at the dinner table for her boyfriend to show up. A middle-aged woman in an Italian palazzo. A girl writhed in snakes in  a circus tent. These images came across so strongly that sometimes they almost overpowered the rest of the stories. But all the stories have strong themes as well, that mostly come through by the end. I will definitely be looking out for future stories and collections by Francesca Marciano.

I greatly enjoyed reading Animal Spirit, which contains nicely crafted stories about conflicts and, hopefully, growth.
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What an amazing collection of stories.  This was a joy to read.  Each story draws you in and you feel the animal spirit captured, the lure of the unknown, violence, sexuality, companionship, rage and more.  

I have not previously spent a lot of time reading a lot of short story compilations, but I am glad I have read this one and encourage you to take the time to read this one too.
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Book review: Much about humanity in 'Animal Spirit' a powerful, clear-eyed collection

I was not sure what to expect going into Francesca Marciano’s new short story collection, “Animal Spirit.” The title led me to believe that animals would not be minor figures, and I was not disappointed. But this short story collection is so much more than what I expected, and it surprised me with its power. I am stunned that I had never heard of Francesca Marciano before, and I think it is time we put her name on the map.

First, it is worth mentioning that while animals play a key role in this collection and often help to develop the stories’ plots and characters, Marciano seems to be equally interested in power dynamics in sexual relationships. Though the plots of the stories are each very different from each other, she uses all of these constructs to show that our sexual relationships are not as balanced as we would like to think, and that which partner has more power depends on a variety of factors.

Each of her stories engage a nuanced discussion about how outer factors, such as the socio-economic class, mental health, or the family situations of one or both partners impact the relationship. And while these stories are not connected, certain common themes give this collection a more cohesive feel than most short story collections can achieve.

As our protagonists navigate their complex romantic dilemmas, encounters with animals often pivot the stories in different directions, impacting the characters’ feelings and decisions. And Marciano uses this device to make a poignant point about the interconnectedness of all things, showing that while we are often caught up in our own struggles, there is more to life than our individual joys and sorrows.

As with most short story collections, the quality is not consistent throughout, and while I would say that all of the stories are technically very sophisticated, I connected particularly well with three of the stories, and I am certain, that Marciano’s astute and heartrending exploration of madness in “Indian Land” will stay with me forever. She is such a clear-eyed writer, showing with particular skill and compassion what makes her characters tick, and though these stories can ostensibly be said to be “about animals,” they are, in truth, about us—about all of the lovely and terrible things that make us human.
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These short stories pack a lot of punch, as the plots are well developed and the narrative is interesting.  I liked how women on the brink of change were the main characters.
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"Animal Spirit" is a collection of five short stories by Italian author Francesca Marciano. The stories are set primarily in Italy and deal with primarily domestic topics with a special emphasis on cheating spouses, and the stories themselves each have an animal presence that influences the protagonist.

Overall, this is a really solid short story collection. All of the stories are very well done and a joy to read which is rare in a short story collection. Each story creates rich and complex characters beautifully and quickly while moving the plot along at a brisk pace; "Indian Land" stands out as a story that is especially moving and captivating. This was an enjoyable read, and I highly recommend this collection to anyone looking for stories that explore the human experience with grace.
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