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We the Animals Hardcover – 1 Mar 2012

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books (1 Mar. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847083951
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847083951
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.4 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 554,058 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'This debut is a searing and sparkling piece of writing that promises great things to come'
--Esquire

'Exciting and unique. Torres's powerful, lyrical prose gives even the darkest of scenes a sheen of brilliance'
--Stylist

'Torres prose has the intensity of poetry. This debut holds out the promise of further virtuoso writing' --Independent

'This coming of age story oscillates between violence and affection, pathos and humour, enriched by fresh and ornate prose'
--Observer

About the Author

Justin Torres was born in 1980 and grew up in upstate New York. His work has appeared in the New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, and Glimmer Train. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, a recipient of the Rolon United States Artist Fellowship in Literature, and is currently a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Entartete Musik on 16 April 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Justin Torres' debut novel We the Animals has impressed on both sides of the Atlantic. A snapshot of a broken Hispanic family in Upstate New York, it charts the passage of time from early childhood to the gay youngest son's incarceration in a mental institution. Vivid phrases and bruised memories make for a bold read, yet moments of true drama or insight rarely arrive. By telling the tale through all-too-artful prose, these postcards provide too few revelations.

The background to the novel's creation overshadows the story. The author's article for The Guardian about his own troubled childhood, ending with his parents decision to send him into psychiatric care provided gripping insight and balance. It has since been removed from the newspaper's website for copyright reasons, though it may just as well have been taken down for stealing the novel's thunder. We the Animals follows that same biographical path, but too often fudges the truth with posed artistry.

There's no doubting that Torres is a terrific writer and stylist. His poetic patois, the interior monologues and the never-patronising observations of the world through a child's eyes provide a fresh voice from page to page. But if the domestic abuse, post-Golding rambles and faded melancholy of the whole thing forms a kinetic thrust, I missed it. And while We the Animals becomes a coming out tale gone wrong, the reader is given little of the insight or self-questioning that such a process customarily prompts.

For all the dirt and directness of Torres' prose, his debut novel feels somewhat artificial. By relishing the telling, he mars the tale. It's a bizarre contradiction in narrative. Because what is described is clearly heavily informed by real experience. What a shame, then, that art turns to artifice and the crude hurt and fallout of troubled times is presented in a showcase of attitudinised verbiage.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Simon Savidge Reads on 28 Mar. 2012
Format: Hardcover
`We The Animals' is on first glances a `coming of age tale', which I should admit from the start I am really not a fan of, as our unnamed narrator grows up and tells the story of his upbringing in upstate New York from the age of seven until he leaves home, or the nest as we might call it. Only if we use the nest analogy, this would be more a nest of vipers than a nest of fluffy ducklings because as we read on we begin to spot there are tensions and underlying unease in this family and there is an almost claustrophobic bond that the family, though it is even more so between the three children, all brothers, have created with one another.

`We The Animals' is not simply a coming of age tale it is also, if a rather concerning image, an honest and believable portrayal of a family of our time but mostly it is the tale of someone coming to terms with individuality. This is why I admitted it so much, it made me ask a lot of questions. When do you start to realise your parents might not be the idealised perfect people you have created in your head? When do sibling rivalries begin and the bonds of brotherhood get severed? How does conflicting parental culture (in this case white and Puerto Rican) affect your bearings on the world? There is a lot discussed in a book which sits just on the borders where novel and novella meet at 144 pages long, though don't let that fool you into thinking that there is no plot or that this novel doesn't have a sense of the epic about it as its quite the opposite.

Using almost short story like chapters (and they even have titles like a short story collection would) we are given snapshots from our unnamed narrators childhood; this to me was one of the most brilliant things Torres does with this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Gideon on 15 Jun. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Get ready: this slim little book will drive an iron wedge into your soul.

Justin Torres's debut novel has already been highly praised by authors such as Michael Cunningham and Marilynne Robinson. With good reason; you will be gripped by it from page one, with no chance to escape.

The first "WTA" trait to strike is its language: taut, sharp, surgically precise, not a word or a punctuation mark wasted or out of place.

Then comes the srructure: Mr Torres's take on Bildungsroman develops in short, poignant tableaux that never fail to climax linguistically and emotionally. In lesser hands this book would have been five-hundred pages long, but the author makes a ferocious use of ellipsis here. And what is missing simply pierces even more when pitched against what you actually read on the page. If you need literary references think "The Hours" by Michael Cunningham mixed with Hubert Selby Jr's "Last Exit To Brooklyn". That is, violence and beauty strolling hand in hand.

And no, we are not going to say a word about the plot and the characters. They will be with you, vivid and heartbreaking, by the end of chapter one, leading the way into a world where each of your senses will be pummelled by the gasp of life.

Mr Torres has some bitter lessons to impart on the illusion of family life, love and sexuality. They all ring desperately, unavoidably true.

We can therefore only applaud this new master in American fiction. And hope for more of this beautiful brutal thing.
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