My work in progress Monkey See features a super-intelligent Spider Monkey named Chacho. Writing the character of Chacho has made me think a lot about the nature of ‘personhood’ and how other writers depict animals in fiction. Hence, welcome to the first installation of Writers & other Animals—a new series featuring a writer, their pet and one of their favourite books featuring an animal. My first guest is the utterly delightful Eliza Henry-Jones.
Eliza lives on a farm, and often posts photographs of her cats, dogs, goats and horses on Twitter. Her goats are adorable! Eliza’s latest book is Ache. I recently read her debut novel In the Quiet, a deeply moving but somehow also very down to earth depiction of Bass and his three teenage children, navigating life after the death of their wife/mother. The family lives on a farm, and horses are central to the story, and the descriptions of their smell, and brushing their coats brought back many happy memories for me of my horse-riding days as a young girl.
Here are her thoughts on one of her favourite books featuring animals:
Reading Foal’s Bread by Gillian Mears was one of those magical and transcending reading experiences. When I read this book, I happened at the time to be choked by self doubt, on the cusp of running my first equine therapy programs for a group of high risk children (basically, a group therapy program revolving around the children working with horses). Foal’s Bread was so heartbreaking, so beautifully written and felt so true in its portrayal of the horse/human relationship, that I immediately relaxed. I realised that I just needed to bring the horses and children (safely!) together and that the therapeutic element wasn’t up to me. It was up to the horses, and to the children. I heard Gillian talk about the book and horses shortly after and still remember her describing her yearning to be astride a horse to be so acute that she would catch a whiff of them in a cup of strong tea.
Your turn: Were you a horsey type? What are your fave books featuring animals?