Quick Book Review: Various Pets Alive and Dead by Marina Lewycka
March 6, 2013 7 Comments
I’ve read all books by Marina Lewycka, starting with A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian, followed by Two Caravans, both very good reads, and the slightly disappointing We Are All Made of Glue. Various Pets… is the newest book.
The book is written from the perspectives of Serge and Clara and their mother Doro. When Serge and Clara were children, the family (including father Marcus) lived in a small commune, with several other adults and children, in the North of England, a mining area. The adults had a communist way of thinking and helped out when the striking miners reached a low point in their finances.
But the book is mainly about the current time, in which Serge is a banker in London, earning ridiculous amounts of money (and a yearly bonus), according to himself. He has not dared telling his mother that he gave up his PhD in Mathematics to become a despised capitalist. His sister Clara is still living in the North and works as a school teacher.
In the early parts of the story, Serge becomes even more greedy and manages to make a fortune, which he tries to hide from his mother. Soon, his deceit becomes impossible to maintain. Clara has pet issues even in her adult life (… Alive and Dead from the title refers to her struggle in keeping pets alive) with a hamster on the loose in her class room. During the course of the story, they come into contact again with some of the people from the commune which leads to some interesting developments.
This was a fun book. I liked it how the story of the past in the commune became clear bit by bit. Also, Serge and his share trading and Clara and her pupils made good story lines. However, even though I am interested in share trading I found some of it a bit tedious. I could have done with less share information, I’m sure.
The book was at times a quick read and at times a little slow. It was fun to see an increasing cast of characters playing a role in the story, all being important in their own way (but not too many so that it was difficult to keep them apart while reading).