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Various Pets Alive and Dead Paperback – 28 Feb 2013

3.9 out of 5 stars 118 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; 1st. New Edition edition (28 Feb. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141044942
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141044941
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 99,146 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Wonderfully funny . . . a dizzy, eye-watering treat . . . Lewycka is somewhere between Hilary Mantel in her satirical mode and Sue Townsend (Independent)

Thank heavens for Marina Lewycka whose Various Pets Alive and Dead me laugh at least once in every chapter . . . The warmth of its tone, its zest, its blend of quirky, humane comedy and intellectual seriousness make this a novel to treasure (New Statesman)

Not many authors could successfully mix lentils, bra-burning and free love with city traders, quantitative analysts and the mathematical calculations that supposedly make naked short selling, CDOs and subprime mortgages infallible. But Marina Lewycka is an exception . . . Never has reading about something serious been quite so much fun (Economist)

Lewycka treats her characters with real affection and combines the big themes and acutely-observed details with characteristic lightness of touch (Daily Mail)

An astute and hilarious take on modern values (Stylist)

Lewycka displays a similar mix of astringent humour and worldly humanism in her fourth novel as she did in her acclaimed debut . . . a funny, farcical novel (Metro)

[Lewycka is] a warm and humane writer . . . most affecting (Sunday Telegraph)

An affectionate picture of a free-thinking, beatnik lifestyle now regarded as batty, but which was underpinned by a real desire to change the world. We could all do with a bit more of that (The Herald)

Lewycka is a warm and humane writer (Guardian)

Marina Lewycka's latest novel is wonderfully funny with moments of pure farce in the best tradition of social satire . . . this inventive and witty book fizzes along from beginning to end (Daily Express)

Lewycka is not only witty but astute . . . it is a charming, beautifully observed novel, and those who label Lewycka a merely whimsical or quirky comic writer woefully underestimate her abilities (Independent on Sunday)

About the Author

Marina Lewycka was born in Kiel, Germany, after the war, grew up in England and lives in Sheffield. Her first novel, A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, longlisted for the Man Booker and won the Bollinger Everyman Prize for Comic Fiction and the Waverton Good Read Award. Her second novel, Two Caravans, was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, Two Caravans and Marina's third novel, We Are All Made of Glue, are all available in Penguin.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Marina Lewycka has a wonderful and delicious way of seeing and hearing the world and people around her. Then she writes her story with the type of humour and situational placements that embellish storytelling so well.

I read this book as soon as I could and was as delighted as with her first book which entranced me. She is at the top of her form in this quirky and wonderful novel about idealistic naivete of the 'flower power' days and life in the harsh economic reality of today.

She runs the stories of two generations side by side and both dip into each other. I am old enough to recognise the parents in this book with wry humour and am insulted with Doro at being called an attractive woman 'for your age'. Lewycka draws on her considerable talent to clearly describe the confusion of political ideals and communal living styles that abounded in the 60s and 70s and embodied by the twenty somethings while bringing up their children to be non materialistic.

Of course, those children grew up into their own political and financial reality and looked at their anachronistic parents with fondness and a little embarrassment, but that does happen with every generation. It is just that Lewycka is so very good at juxtaposing these things and showing us a well drawn perception that has all her characters leaping off the page at the reader.

She deals with social tension extraordinarily well and can bring everything crashing down with humorous slapstick. A treasure of a book.

Thoroughly recommended.
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By Denise4891 TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 29 Feb. 2012
Format: Paperback
I know Marina Lewycka's new releases are eagerly anticipated by a lot of people, so I'm pleased to report that this fan wasn't disappointed and found this latest one to be full of her trademark colourful characters and wonderfully witty observations.

Marcus and Doro are a couple of old hippies who lived the communal good life in the 1970s and tried to bring their children up to believe in their leftie wholegrain values. As is so often the way, however, their children Serge and Clara (named after revolutionaries) have rebelled against their parents and taken very conventional paths (City trader and primary school teacher respectively). There's a real sense of time and place about the description the lifestyle of Marcus and Doro's and their fellow commune-dwellers, from the swinging and banner waving of the 60s and 70s through to their support for the miner's strike in the 80s, mixing their own brand of leftie intellectual politics with the rough and ready survival philosophy of the locals. It's all observed in a very nostalgic, affectionate manner with only the very slightest hint of gentle mockery. Indeed, when one of his fellow commune kids (now an IT whizz) admits that he envies their parents for at least believing in something, Serge (the City trader) jokes "I know, values and stuff. It all seems a bit retro".

The more contemporary storyline is played out against the background of the financial crisis of 2008 with banks collapsing, share prices falling through the floor and, of course, the demise of Woolworths. Serge is in the thick of it, while Clara's troubles are closer to home as she battles to educate the children (and parents) of a Doncaster council estate.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
From the same author I really enjoyed 'A short history of tractors in Ukrainian' and 'Two Caravans', both of which I found original and witty, especially her first novel, the stories of which revolved around immigrants from Ukraine and Eastern Europe. Her third novel 'We are all made of glue' was still good but didn't quite reach the heights of the first two.

'Various pets alive and dead' is Marina Lewycka's fourth novel, and although by no means bad, it didn't hit the spot in quite the same way as her first two novels. The story involves Doro and Marcus, who lived in a neo-Marxist style commune in the 1960's and now find themselves in the modern world with three grown up children; Clara, a primary school teacher, Serge, a mathematician and investment banker, and Oolie-Anna who has Down's Syndrome. Much of the humour juxtaposes the values and morals of the 1960's generation against that of the moderm world, and also the traditional values of the northern community in Doncaster with that of the City of London.

Although the book does have its humourous moments, the story cuts around between the characters, and back and forward from the 1960's to the present day, many of the characters are caricatures (as to be expected in this type of novel). Picking the City of London wide-boy culture as a target for satire is really a rather easy one, and again although some of this was amusing, it seemed rather obvious in places. I found some of the stories and scenes from the 60's commune rather uninteresting, and the story lines didn't really go very far. The amoral Maroushka, the Ukranian ex-cleaner and maths-whizz, seemed contrived beyond belief (I guess there had to be a Ukranian in there somewhere!), and some of the threads didn't seem to resolve themselves, eg.
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