The Memory of Animals
by Claire Fuller
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Pub Date 20 Apr 2023 | Archive Date 18 Apr 2023
'Haunting and unsettling, moving and thoughtful, with horror lurking at the edges, this is a subtle, elegant novel. Claire Fuller is a huge talent' Lucy Atkins, author of Magpie Lane
CLAIRE FULLER AT HER FINEST: A more high concept novel than Unsettled Ground, The Memory of Animals combines a gripping, speculative fiction plot with a beautifully written and affecting story of memory, love, octopuses and survival
Neffy is a young woman running away from grief and guilt and the one big mistake that has derailed her career. When she answers the call to volunteer in a controlled vaccine trial, it offers her a way to pay off her many debts and, perhaps, to make up for the past.
But when the London streets below her window fall silent, and all external communications cease, only Neffy and four other volunteers remain in the unit. With food running out, and a growing sense that the strangers she is with may be holding back secrets, Neffy has questions that no-one can answer. Does safety lie inside or beyond the unit? And who, or what is out there?
While she weighs up her choices, she is introduced to a pioneering and controversial technology which allows her to revisit memories from her life before: a childhood divided between her enigmatic mother and her father in his small hotel in Greece. Intoxicated by the freedom of the past and the chance to reunite with those she loves, she increasingly turns away from her perilous present. But in this new world where survival rests on the bonds between strangers, is she jeopardising any chance of a future?
The Memory of Animals is a taut and emotionally charged novel about freedom and captivity, survival and sacrifice and whether you can save anyone before you save yourself.
'Another literary page-turner ... Compulsive and thoroughly convincing. Terrific!' Clare Chambers, author of Small Pleasures
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Average rating from 68 members
I'm new to Claire Fuller but after reading "The Memory of Animals" I shall be back to read more. I wasn't sure what to expect but this book is fascinating. It's part pandemic, part dystopian (mildly), part sci-fi, 100% amazing. Having gone through the pandemic, most of us will be able to identify with the need for a vaccine trial and how the world outside can change suddenly. The dystopian part plays on the classic " how will they survive" questions and the hope that is offered at the end. The best parts for me were the letters to H - just beautiful letters to a friend that was lost to Neffy and using the Revisitor which allowed the user to immerse themselves in memories.
Claire Fuller is, of course, an excellent writer. You don't need me to tell you that. This novel seems to be a bit of a departure from her usual style - and I don't say that as a criticism. It's a 'pandemic' novel, about a pandemic, and a group of people who volunteer for a vaccine trial, only to be stranded, left alone when the rest of humanity gets the virus. I think, had we not been through an actual pandemic, most of us would have read this with a wry smile, thinking: really? But this novel definitely proves that truth is stranger than (or equally as strange as) fiction. As others have noted, there are several strands to this storyline, but essentially, this is a novel about humanity, about evolution, about human survival. It doesn't give any answers (thankfully), because that's the gift: it makes you, the reader, really think about perhaps what the pandemic did to your own memories. This is clever fiction - intelligent stuff. Highly recommended. My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
‘The Memory of Animals’ is a powerful, enthralling read that weaves together three narrative strands to create an impressive whole. Much like the octopuses that Neffy cared for in aquariums, the main characters are effectively imprisoned in a medical research unit after a savage pandemic has wiped out most of the population. The sense of captivity is emphasised by the contrasts between the sensory deprivation of Neffy’s post apocalyptic existence cowering indoors and the rich experiences from her past that she is able to live again through the Revisit apparatus that is the brainchild of Leon, a fellow survivor. I loved the sensory overload of the revisited scenes from Neffy’s past and there’s an incredible emphasis on tastes and smells throughout the novel. I also learnt a lot about octopuses. In a week when I have read articles about scientific research into man’s ability to communicate non-verbally with dogs, pigs and monkeys, Neffy’s interaction with octopuses was equally intriguing and credible.
Thanks to Net Galley for the privilege of getting to read this captivating novel in advance of its publication.
I really like Claire Fuller's writing, and have been looking forward to reading this. It feels quite different to the other novels I have read by her, but you still feel yourself in entirely capable hands.
This one is part pandemic, part sci-fi, part dystopian thriller...everything gets jumbled along together, edging around all of those genres really, and it caught my attention immediately and held it all the way through.
I expect some people will still be avoiding anything literary that looks at the horrors we all went through in the last few years, living it having been more than enough, but this one takes the edge of our own pandemic and then throws something else in besides. And having seen just exactly what sort of things *are* possible when something like this happens globally, it's believable and relatable and unsettling. Our cast of characters in lockdown are in there of their own volition, volunteering to be guinea pigs for a new vaccine, and then trapped there when world events overtake them.
It is dark and difficult in places, but there is lightness too, and overall it left me thinking, thinking, thinking. The memory machine is a fascinating idea. I wondered where it might take me, in my mind, and what that would feel like. The octopus bits made me think of the documentary, 'My Octopus Teacher' which completely transformed the way I think of these creatures. And I really liked the main character, Neffy, and found myself completely caught up in her life - both her current situation, and her past history.
The Memory of Animals is clearly a Claire Fuller novel right from the off. It's strange and interesting and dystopian with the accent being on relationships. It is what she does so very well.
Neffy is one of a handful of volunteers to try a vaccine that has been developed in answer to a pandemic that causes forgetfulness in the beings it attacks. However as she enters the hospital to either receive the virus and vaccine or a placebo it seems that the virus has mutated: the forgetfulness is now accompanied by brain swelling, bloating and death. No one knows how virulent it is but as Neffy comes round from being infected she realizes that she and her fellow volunteers are in a very bad predicament.
The story follows their fight to continue, make decisions as to how to survive and Neffy is given the opportunity to revisit her past.
As always with Claire Fuller's work she concentrates on human behaviour during a crisis. She seems to do this without making anyone seem inhuman or even superhuman. Everyone in the book is given choices to make about their health and their relationships.
It's certainly a new twist on a pandemic novel and the book despite the circumstances, doesn't dwell on that aspect.
Her writing is, as ever, exquisitely crafted. The story is unnerving but never over the top scary. Neffy is a fascinating character with more than her fair share of the milk of human kindness. Would that we were all that nice in a crisis.
Highly recommended to fans of Ms Fuller's work or lovers of dystopian novels or those who just enjoy a well considered, beautifully written novel.
A novel with the pandemic as a storyline could have made for a dated and stale sell but The Memory of Animals is not only beautifully written but the elements of the controversial memory technology combines to create a heart breaking but beautiful story. I had high hopes for this novel and I was not disappointed.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review
I love the way Claire Fuller writes and she is so well-suited to this genre. This was a compelling, propulsive and wonderfully imagined novel, filled with suspense, intrigue and moral complexity. Riveting.
A group of young people are trapped in hospital during a pandemic that wipes through the population, leaving just them, alone and isolated. It's not a 'survival' novel though. No gangs of thugs attack them, nobody comes near them. It's a huis clos, with just our five characters.
The novel is structured by each day they live through, in parallel with flashbacks of scenes in the past. Hard to say more without spoilers.
The Memory of Animals is a beautifully written, lovely novel, albeit with a sad setting. It's moving and full of emotion, while being quite down-to-earth in its language and structure and overall storytelling. I would say that the style never gets in the way of the story!
You'll fall in love reading this book. With an octopus, rather surprisingly.
I'm left not quite sure how I feel, but a little bereft.
The Memory of Animals is a stunning book. It starts with scenes that are reminiscent of Day of the Triffids, chilling in their portrayal of a pandemic that results in vast and painful death. It moves towards something more like Piranesi, as it wrestles with the loneliness Nefeli experiences alongside the intense claustrophobia of being stuck with a small group of people in a clinical centre, there to trial a vaccine.
It is hard not to see Covid in much of the book. I would have said that I wasn't ready for a story like this, but in fact, I found it deeply moving and often shockingly familiar. It is a profound and clever book, and has some deeply poignant moments. Nefeli is obsessed with an octopus she once set free, and while the parallels are striking and sincere, I occasionally regretted the interruption of flow.
In all, this is a beautifully written, poignant and deeply thought-provoking book. I was delighted to have the chance to read it.
A brilliant novel. To ease you into the mood, I’d say it has shades of Never Let Me Go, The Road, Burntcoat – and maybe just a dash of Black Mirror gadgetry. But the original plot is threaded through with Fuller’s always acute sense of place, people and emotions. All the horrors of pandemic life are pushed to an extreme, yet written about in an utterly convincing way.
The compelling plot keeps the tension rising to an almost unbearable pitch, but interspersed with Neffy’s backstory, which is revealed through a space-age device that allows her to revisit key memories. Then there’s an epistolary element, with heartfelt letters to ‘H’, which offer moments of reflection and an environmental context. As it barrelled towards its (highly cinematic) denoument, I didn’t want this book to end.
This is a great example of a book that is literary in character and scope but deftly uses thrilleresque twists.
Fuller’s books all have very different settings, but a common theme is being trapped within a setting that is evoked in almost claustrophobic detail (Our Endless Numbered Days and Bitter Orange are prime examples - Unsettled Ground too in some ways), but in The Memory of Animals Fuller takes this motif to a terrifying extreme. I enjoyed being able to read it as an ARC but I’ll be buying it too, because it’s the kind of book I will enjoy taking down from my shelf and re-reading. Oh, and it also presents brilliant case for vegetarianism…
This is what was once called speculative fiction, a sort of thought provoking sci-fi or dystopia.
There's a dystopia background and there's a lot about memories, living, and surviving.
The author did an excellent job in making me feel the emotions of the characters including the claustrophobia and nostalgia of past experiences.
Great storytelling, plot and character development.
Many thanks to the publisher for this arc, all opinions are mine
Neffy is participating in a clinical trial for a vaccine during a pandemic. While Neffy is in isolation, a new strain breaks out and the world descends into chaos. This is woven with Neffy’s letters to her beloved H and memories of her past.
While it is quite a departure from Unsettled Ground in terms of genre, fans of Fuller’s previous work will find a lot to like here. Fuller excels in creating a claustrophobic, small, detailed setting, filling it will entirely believable, flawed characters, and full of humanity and compassion.
I haven’t read anything dystopian/apocalyptic/pandemic based since 2019 but had trust in Fuller to handle this with care. This was well founded, the tragedy was not lost in the story. I found the early part of the novel eerily familiar.
*Light spoiler in this paragraph* I don’t typically enjoy sci-fi elements in books, I thought Fuller’s use a ‘revisiting’ machine to connect Neffy to the past was clever. It worked to both increase our understanding of Neffy and makes us think about technology, memory, nostalgia and perspective.
Pick up this book up if: you’re looking for grounded, profound speculative fiction
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
This is a pandemic book done perfectly! I absolutely loved it!!
It was heartbreaking, raw, creepy and beautiful - all in one!
I felt how memory was played with really worked, exploring life and how perceptions change.
The octopus content was just amazing and I wasn’t expecting that - I would read a book purely about them now! Obsessed!
Claire Fuller is immediately an auto-buy author now.
Thanks for the E-ARC NegGallery - this is my honest review!
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