Friday, January 03, 2014

'Various Pets Alive & Dead' by Marina Lewycka

3 January 2014

I've previously compared the novelist Marina Lewycka to David Lodge and Anne Tyler (in reviewing 'We Are All Made of Glue' here in January 2011 and ‘A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian’ in April 2006). She writes entertaining contemporary comic novels with a lightness of touch that acts as a Trojan horse for some serious themes. I really enjoyed Marina Lewycka's latest novel 'Various Pets Alive & Dead' which deals with the financial crisis of 2008. Mathematician Serge is a 'quant' (quantitative analyst) at Finance and Trading Consolidated Alliance at the heart of the London banking world but his mother, Doro, thinks he is completing his PhD in Cambridge. Doro still lives in Doncaster where she brought up her family in a socialist commune. Her daughter Clara is a primary school teacher who lives in Sheffield. Each chapter is told through the eyes of one of these three characters. Gradually we piece together their stories, the history of the commune and the contrast between political ideals and the pragmatic modern world. Short chapters create a real pace to the intertwined narratives which builds to some wonderful comic set pieces as the separate lives of the main characters come together. There are some mysteries buried in this family history, not all of which are neatly tied up. 'Various Pets Alive & Dead' is an enjoyable and thought-provoking read.



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