When We Were Animals by Joshua Gaylord
Book of the Month
I liked reading When We Were Animals a great deal but knew that I would find it very difficult to review. This was a book I enjoyed as much for how it was written as for what it was written about. It has a hypnotic narrative, features complex and engaging characters and at its centre is a young female lead for whom I felt much empathy. And I loved Lumen because I love characters who are flawed but fundamentally good.
Whilst reading this book I was reminded of two classics: To Kill a Mockingbird and the Lord of the Flies, both in the themes and the way in which the book was written. Gaylord’s narrative provides vivid mental imagery but this came as no surprise - I have read this author before, under his pseudonym Alden Bell, and in The Reapers Are The Angels he wrote a book I now hold dear.
The book markets itself as a gothic coming-of-age story for modern times and as I cannot argue with - or better - the description I think I can happily stay with it. The story centres on Lumen, a well-behaved, intelligent girl who feels ostracized from those her own age. Her friends are her father and her books. Her mother died when she was young. When We Were Animals is set in a small, quiet Midwestern town that is unremarkable save for one fact: when the local teenagers reach a certain age, they run wild. Through Lumen’s narrative of this less-than-ordinary childhood we learn about her community's darkest, strangest secret which is that, for one year, beginning at puberty, every resident "breaches" during the full moon. On these nights, adolescents run wild, destroying everything in their path.
As already mentioned the writing is beautiful: poetic and vivid and this includes the dialogue. This is a book you just need to sit down and read, allow the words to wash over you and experience Lumen’s extraordinarily eventful life. It will stay with you long after the last page is finished. Words like captivating and enchanting do it justice and if you read other reviews, you will find them repeated often. This is a coming of age story which is very different from anything you’ve likely read before. I believe this a book that will improve further through repeated re-reads and below you can see just how much others have enjoyed it. Highly recommended.
"When We Were Animals is so utterly compelling and absorbing that every time I (reluctantly) broke from it, I not only had to remind myself where I was, but who I was. Superbly written, chilling, original and deeply affecting, it will stay with me for a long time" (Sarah Lotz)
"An eerie tale ... poetically written, thought-provoking and has a good eye for life’s small but important details" (Sun)
"When We Were Animals conjures the dreamy satisfaction of revisiting the cult horror movies of your youth - things are familiar but they resound in new and unexpected ways, revealing subtle depths and poignancy. This is a dark, inventive and absorbing story, fittingly theatrical. It disturbs and entertains in equal measure" (Benjamin Wood author of the Costa-shortlisted The Bellwether Revivals)
"In Lumen, Gaylord creates an unforgettable and, well, luminous narrative voice, and his language captures the lush, dangerous possibilities of teenage nights to perfection. . . . this book deserves a breakout success like that of Jeffrey Eugenides's first novel, The Virgin Suicides" (Library Journal)
This When We Were Animals book review was written by Floresiensis
Have you read When We Were Animals?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
When We Were Animals reader reviews
9/10 from 1 reviews
There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
The Machine Stops
Imagine, if you can, a small room, hexagonal in shape, like the cell of a bee. It is lighted neither by window nor by lamp, yet it is filled with a soft radiance. There are...
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Handsome Dorian Gray has found the secret of eternal youth. As those around him age, Gray remains young and beautiful. Knowing his actions have no consequences he lives a w...
The Gormenghast Trilogy
Titus, heir to Lord Sepulchrave, has just been born: he stands to inherit the miles of rambling stone and mortar that stand for Gormenghast Castle. Inside, all events are p...
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Robert Louis Stevenson
Murder and monstrosity on the streets of Victorian London. Nineteenth century London can be a very dangerous place. Beneath the prim and proper morals of Victorian society ...
The Hound of the D'Urbervilles
Imagine the twisted evil twins of Holmes and Watson and you have the dangerous duo of Professor James Moriarty – wily, snake-like, fiercely intelligent, terrifyingly ...
A misguided scientist seeks to instill life in a creature he has assembled from the bodies of the dead....
This Dark Endeavour
In this prequel to Mary Shelley's gothic classic, Frankenstein, 16-year-old Victor Frankenstein begins a dark journey that will change his life forever. Victor's tw...
Golgotha Falls: Genesis
Golgotha Falls: A city of carnal nightmare and monstrous appetite, nowhere in all the worlds of empire will you find its equal. Forged from dark science and steeped in anci...
Never The Bride
Brenda has had a long and eventful life, and she has come to Whitby to run a B&B and enjoy some peace and quiet. She and her best friend Effie like nothing better than ...
Such Wicked Intent
When does obsession become madness? Tragedy has forced sixteen-year-old Victor Frankenstein to swear off alchemy forever. He burns the Dark Library. He vows he will never d...
Four and Twenty Blackbirds
What Eden Moore digs up in the roots of her diseased family tree takes her across the South, from the ruins of the Pine Breeze sanitarium in Tennessee to a corpse-filled sw...
Ever since moving to Fairwick to take up a teaching post at the local college, Callie has been having vivid, erotic dreams about a man made out of moonlight and shadows. Dr...
Hide Me Among the Graves
London, 1862. A city of over three million souls, of stinking fog and dark, winding streets. Through these streets walks the poet Christina Rossetti, haunted and tormented ...
Philadelphia, the late 1870s. A city of gas lamps, cobblestone streets, and horse-drawn carriages - and home to the controversial surgeon Dr. Spencer Black. The son of a gr...
Pope Benignus is dying, and the man who takes his throne will hold the reins of an empire. Conspiracies swirl like shadows around Livia, the pope's daughter, who refuse...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages: