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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