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The Animals in That Country by Laura Jean McKay

by
May 2020, no. 421
Ben Brooker reviews 'The Animals in That Country' by Laura Jean McKay

The Animals in That Country

by Laura Jean McKay

Scribe, $29.99 pb, 288 pp

The Animals in That Country by Laura Jean McKay

by
May 2020, no. 421

Talking animals in fiction have, for the most part, been confined to children’s or otherwise peripheral literature. Yet they often serve a serious purpose. Aesop’s fables, with their anthropoid wolves, frogs, and ants, have been put to use as moral lessons for children since the Renaissance. The ‘it-narrative’, fashionable in eighteenth-century England and perhaps best exemplified by Francis Coventry’s History of Pompey the Little: Or, the life and adventures of a lap-dog (1752), saw various animals expatiate their suffering at human hands.

In a similar vein, the equine hero of Black Beauty (1877), the creation of Victorian Quaker-reformist Anna Sewell, railed against life as a taxicab horse. The habit of contemporaneous critics has been to dismiss such works as irredeemably sentimental, anthropomorphic, or merely curious, even when – as with George Orwell’s political fable Animal Farm (1945) or Virginia Woolf’s Flush (1933), a ‘biography’ of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cocker spaniel – starkly adult concerns are operating.

Ben Brooker reviews 'The Animals in That Country' by Laura Jean McKay

The Animals in That Country

by Laura Jean McKay

Scribe, $29.99 pb, 288 pp

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