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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You cannot remain untouched by Animal
The central character, who is also the narrator of this story, is the force which gives the novel its incredible emotional power. Animal, so named because his twisted back forces him must walk on all fours, was the victim of a toxic gas leak from a foreign-owned company in the Indian town of Khaufpur. Animal is crass, obsessed with sex and self-interested enough to slip...
Published on 8 Feb. 2008 by Gordon Eldridge

versus
14 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Meaningful perhaps - but not a great read
Whilst I found the subject matter very interesting, particularly as I studied the Bhopal distaster during my University Engineering course, I didn't enjoy the book as much as the other reviewers.

I found the language difficult to read, whilst it does to some extent help with the characterisation it does not help the fluidity of the book. Some of the bad...
Published on 21 Jan. 2008 by Mme Julia Doust


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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You cannot remain untouched by Animal, 8 Feb. 2008
By 
Gordon Eldridge (Brussels, Belgium) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Animal's People (Paperback)
The central character, who is also the narrator of this story, is the force which gives the novel its incredible emotional power. Animal, so named because his twisted back forces him must walk on all fours, was the victim of a toxic gas leak from a foreign-owned company in the Indian town of Khaufpur. Animal is crass, obsessed with sex and self-interested enough to slip drugs into a love rival's drinks. Despite this he is an earthy, funny, self-aware and thoroughly likeable character and a brutally honest narrator.

It is perhaps not possible for someone who has not lived through such horrors to truly understand what it must be like for those who have, but getting to know Animal allows us to come as close as we are likely to get. Animal's dealings with the foreign `doctress' Elli also give us a window of understanding that opens onto the chasm that divides most readers from Animal's world, not just because we have not experienced the kind of atrocity he has, but because we are affluent and privileged.

This is a book about cynical exploitation by big business of the situation in less affluent countries. It is about the corruption that hampers the fight for justice and compensation for the victims and it is about the lack of any true understanding by outsiders of the real plight of those who live in `the kingdom of the poor'. It is also a book which brings all this alive in a very visceral way. Noone could be left untouched after reading this novel.
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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite excellent, 22 Aug. 2007
By 
MisterHobgoblin (Melbourne) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Animal's People (Paperback)
Animal's People is a grand novel, combining the epic with the personal.

On the epic scale, we have the fight of the victims of an explosion in a poison factory to seek their justice through the corrupt court system in India. And on the personal level, we have the individual drama of the victims as they seek to live their lives and love their loves in the shadow of the factory, coping with their various forms of damage.

The setting for the novel, Khaufpur, is a thinly disguised representation of Bhopal, which did suffer a chemical factory tragedy in 1984. The star of the novel is Animal, a child whose bones warped in the chemical fire and now walks on all fours. Animal has an engaging personality, a huge bundle of hope, a libido that is out of control, and a rather irritating style of syntax. Having grown up under the protection of Ma Franci, a French nun, he is taken under the wing of Zafar and Nisha, who run the campaign for justice. Animal falls madly in live with Nisha, but knows that Nisha will choose Zafar over him because of his deformity. Much of Animal's life is spent, then, wishing he could walk upright because then he might have more chance with women.

Then, the campaign for justice scores a hit as a court is willing, 20 years on, to consider seizing the assets of the "Kampani" if it doesn't come to court to answer charges relating to the poisoning. But this is set against a backdrop of political scheming and corruption, apparently led by the Chief Minister himself. A doctress then arrives in Khaufpur, Elli Barber, to run a free clinic for people suffering the after-effects of the poison. Elli-doctress finds things hard going as the town tries to decide whether to trust her.

Without giving the game away, the schemings carry on at a fair old pace, as various characters have to balance their loyalties to one another against their loyalties to the campaign. The plot is rich and satisfying.

The characterization, too, is of the highest order. Animal, in particular, is painted in bright colours. He has a scatological sense of humour, and an unhealthily selfish streak of which he is not ashamed - he just tells people he is an animal, not a human. Ma-Franci, Somraj, Zafar, Nisha and Elli-doctress also have a great deal of depth and complexity. Zafar, in particular, gives an excellent depiction of the charismatic leader, prepared to put the personal aside for the cause of the people. In one section of the novel, Zafar takes a different view of the best course of action to most people - and uses his charisma to get people to follow his preferred course against their better judgement. This section was highly convincing.

The novel is quite excellent - save for the irritating device of using Animal's convoluted syntax and spelling to deliver the narration. This is unnecessary. The novel is good enough to stand on its own feet, without resorting to gimmicks. Moreover, the syntax sits ill with a character who is supposed to be highly intelligent and who uses such glorious language to produce such a vivid picture of Khaufpur and its denizens. The irritation factor does abate with time, but it spoils what would otherwise have been a perfectly balanced novel.

For those who are interested - Indra Sinha's Khaufpur website is worth a look just to marvel at his intense level of detail.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You cannot remain untouched by Animal, 12 Feb. 2008
By 
Gordon Eldridge (Brussels, Belgium) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Animal's People (Paperback)
The central character, who is also the narrator of this story, is the force which gives the novel its incredible emotional power. Animal, so named because his twisted back forces him must walk on all fours, was the victim of a toxic gas leak from a foreign-owned company in the Indian town of Khaufpur. Animal is crass, obsessed with sex and self-interested enough to slip drugs into a love rival's drinks. Despite this he is an earthy, funny, self-aware and thoroughly likeable character and a brutally honest narrator.

It is perhaps not possible for someone who has not lived through such horrors to truly understand what it must be like for those who have, but getting to know Animal allows us to come as close as we are likely to get. Animal's dealings with the foreign `doctress' Elli also give us a window of understanding that opens onto the chasm that divides most readers from Animal's world, not just because we have not experienced the kind of atrocity he has, but because we are affluent and privileged.

This is a book about cynical exploitation by big business of the situation in less affluent countries. It is about the corruption that hampers the fight for justice and compensation for the victims and it is about the lack of any true understanding by outsiders of the real plight of those who live in `the kingdom of the poor'. It is also a book which brings all this alive in a very visceral way. Noone could be left untouched after reading this novel.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Original and well written, with a few minor flaws, 1 Feb. 2008
By 
BookWorm "BookWorm" (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Animal's People (Paperback)
This is one of those stories that grows on the reader, the second half being stronger than the first. It's set in a fictional Indian city where a Bhopal-like chemical factory accident killed and maimed thousands of inhabitants. The narrator is 'Animal', a young man crippled and orphaned by the disaster, who walks on all fours and lives in abject poverty. The story is concerned with the continuing struggle of the still-suffering cityfolk for compensation from the American company that owned the factory.

The story is written in Animal's distinctive 'voice', including phrases of Hindi and French (usually translated), missprounced English, and frequent swearing. It took quite a while to get used to and at first I found it rather annoying and pretentious, and the swearing unneccessary and gratuitous, but this feeling lessened as the story progressed and I got more involved with the characters and situations. There's also a tendancy for the verb to be put at the end of the sentence. Very annoying, it's. What I mean, see?

The characters are strong and interesting, particularly Animal. The American doctor, Elli Barber, I found a bit unbelievable at times - she speaks perfect Hindi, just happens to have been married to one of the Company's cheif lawyers, raises all the money for her clinic herself... I preferred the other characters, who seemed more 'real' to me.

The writing is engaging and, towards the end, very gripping. There are some weaker sections but its unusual style keeps it entertaining. It depicts one of the most vivid pictures of India that I have ever read, particularly that of its poorest inhabitants. The style of writing is brutally honest and doesn't pull punches, and manages to convey the deprivation of the slum dwellers without becoming pitying or condescending.

Some elements of the story are slightly bizarre, almost magic realist, and I wasn't sure whether this should be attributed to Animal's 'madness' or if they should be taken as factual. For example, his frequent conversations with spirits and his ability to understand foreign languages and read thoughts - it was unclear if these were rationally explainable as him hallucinating and being particularly perceptive, or were supposed to actually be some sort of remarkable abilities.

There is a surprising and moving ending - I'm not entirely sure whether I liked it or not, but I won't say any more here. Despite some of my niggles, I did enjoy it and thought it was an original and generally well written book.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bitter, angry, obscene, funny - a journey to the heart of the human spirit, 22 April 2007
By 
U. Sinha "Umi Sinha" (Brighton, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Animal's People (Paperback)
Animal's voice is a tour de force - as strong and individual as the voice in Vernon God Little and equally funny. This a dark, unsentimental portrait of a community who have been shat on from a great height by the rich and powerful and who continue to survive and dream and hunger for a better life. It is an accurate and unsentimental portrait of the India that tourists never see - a world in which the poor help each other not because they are noble or selfless but because they know they can expect no help from anyone else. But though anchored in reality, the book also touches on larger issues and we accompany Animal on a life-changing journey as he struggles with jealousy and loyalty, love and hate and ultimately life and death. I should confess here that I am Indra's sister, but I am also a professional literary consultant and creative writing tutor, used to giving criticism objectively regardless of whose work it is.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond the Booker Prtize, 1 Oct. 2007
By 
CSMasoliver "Chandra Masoliver" (Sussex,England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Animal's People (Paperback)
"Animal's People" is loving, funny, magical, sad and very angry. Although it is about a real crime - the explosion of a U.S. owned chemical factory in Bhopal, and America's refusal to acknowledge responsibility in any realistic way - these facts are transcended into a book of great literary worth. Linguistically it is a delight. Curiously, the book has grace; I suppose that's through the unsentimental friendship of the characters. I hope it wins the Booker prize, because that would encourage people to read it; but beyond the Booker I hope it lives for ever! Incidentally, if it does, it will be no thanks to the bookshops, who seem incapable of going beyond the mundane on their shelves.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed gem, 18 Jan. 2009
By 
Archy (ALTRINCHAM, Cheshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Animal's People (Paperback)
I enjoyed this very much, but didn't find it an easy read. The language and style was rather difficult, and the glossary worse than useless; every time I looked up a phrase I didn't understand it wasn't there, so in the end I gave up.The ending is unsatisfactory, a long, rambling hallucinatory passage, followed by a brief wrap up of the plot, which suggests the author ran out of time. And the demonisation of America is unsettling, if understandable.

However, for all that, it's still a great book and one I'd recommend; it really engages the emotions and makes the reader angry on Animal's behalf - and what a character he is. Not easy, but worth the effort.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Moving, 8 Feb. 2008
This review is from: Animal's People (Paperback)
Animal's People deservedly made it onto the Man Booker shortlist in 2007. It is not just a humane and entertaining novel about a very serious industrial disaster (the Bhopal gas disaster) but it is also angry, and touching at the same time.
There are some flaws pointed out by other reviewers as well, odd syntax, too much swearing, a certain inconsistency in tone - although it must be said that keeping up Animal's distinctive voice for over 350 pages is a major feat in itself, one might forgive the occasional lapses. There are passages of real beauty despite the main setting being a series of slums.
I love the wry humour and banter between friends, the increasing dementia of Ma Franci and Animal's continued love for her as the only mother he knows. But the American doctor Elli did not come alive for me. She is the weakest character in the book..
Also Animal's lustfulness earlier on in the book was so repetitive, it became tedious and annoying. It was as if the author was not sure where the plot was going.
Indra Sinha is at his best when he is portraying the world of damaged people (Animal, of course and also Ma Franci and Pundit Somraj).
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing and Uplifting, 10 April 2007
By 
NH Wardle (Norfolk UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Animal's People (Paperback)
The world of Animal and of the people who share it with him is one that is well outside the experience of a white, middle class reader like me, but I was drawn in so entirely to that world that I felt like I was there in Khafpur and that I actually had an understanding of how the characters feel, what they might think and why they act as they do. It is not sympathy that Animal engenders, but empathy.

Given the subject matter,this book could have been grim and harrowing, but with Animal as his uncompromising and often extremely funny narrator, Indra Sinha gives us an experience that is absorbing and ultimately uplifting.

Mr Sinha's other recent books, 'Cybergypsies' and 'The Death of Mr Love' are both great reads in which he shows his remarkable skill in weaving several tales together into a beautiful and coherent whole. With 'Animal's People' he has created something even more remarkable - a story that is written straight from the heart.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unforgettable character, a story with the power to change things, 3 Jun. 2007
By 
This review is from: Animal's People (Paperback)
Many of you have read Indra's pieces on bhopal.net, the Bhopal Medical Appeal newsletters and scores of campaign material he has produced in the last fourteen years. Imagine all of that anger, sadness, laughter, bawdiness, absurdity and flights of power defying imagination in one book - thats Animal's People. It is an intimately gripping story told by 'Animal' a young survivor of the 'apokalis' [apocalypse] in the city of Khaufpur. Everybody calls him Animal because he lopes on his feet and hands due to his bent spine - damage caused by the gases of the apokalis. He lies, cheats, peeps at bathing women, thinks unprintable thoughts, dreams wet dreams, verges on betraying the cause for justice but throughout remains starkly real and immensely lovable. The people around Animal are fellow survivors, activists, American do gooders, musicians, government officials, lumpens and lust objects. Together it is the story of the have-nothings fighting the have-alls and winning. Khaufpur is as close or far from Bhopal as you want it to be but I am sure you will enjoy the retelling of the many campaigns that so many of us have been part of and recognise the intricacies of wickedness and resistance in a gassed city. For sure it has the power to make a whole new set of people curious and potentially sympathetic to the ongoing struggle of Bhopal. Please spread the word and encourage friends to buy this brilliant book.
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Animal's People
Animal's People by Indra Sinha (Paperback - 5 Mar. 2007)
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