Published: 20 April 2023
Author: Claire Fuller
Published by: Fig Tree
Length: 320 pages
Reading dates: 24-29 April 2023
Neffy is a young woman running away from grief and guilt, and the one big mistake that has derailed her career. When a debilitating new virus sweeps across the globe, volunteering in a vaccine trial offers her a way to make up for her past. But then, the virus mutates, and the future she had dreamed for herself is gone.
As the London streets outside the medical unit fall silent, and food begins to run out, Neffy must decide where safety lies. Might she find solace by revisiting her own heady memories of the past? Can she trust the strangers trapped inside with her – despite her growing suspicions? Or is her best chance of a future to be found in the terrifyingly unknown world outside?
In The Memory of Animals we meet a young woman, Neffy who as the book begins is checking into a medical facility to take part in a vaccine trial. A pandemic known as Dropsy is sweeping the world, the main symptom being the swelling of organs. The next thing Neffy is aware of is waking up feeling unwell. The other participants of the trial tell her she had a bad reaction to the vaccine and they weren’t sure she would survive. Because she had a bad reaction to the vaccine, the vaccine trial was put on hold, and the other participants are now convinced she is immune. While she has been unwell, the virus has mutated with deadly consequences and the staff of the facility have all left, just leaving the 5 vaccine trial participants.
As the group consider the fact they might well be the only humans left and with food running out, they all handle the situation differently. Neffy started training as a doctor but gave that up to become a marine biologist and throughout the book she writes to “H” about her love of octopuses and what remarkable creatures they are. She also takes part in a program that another participant Leon has worked on from before the trial called revisiting – Neffy is able to travel through her memories and this allows us to hear more about her life before the trial, about her summers in Greece with her dad, her unconventional upbringing with her mum and her romantic relationship with her step brother Justin.
Unintentionally I read two books back-to-back that feature a pandemic! I loved the structure of this book – the horror as Neffy comes to terms with what has happened interspersed with her memories of her childhood and her relationships with her dad, mum and boyfriend. I also enjoyed the letters to “H” and learning about octopuses. I really enjoy dystopian fiction and I think this might be my favourite book by Claire Fuller so far!
I’ve read and enjoyed all of Claire’s books – Our Endless Numbered Days (predates blog); Swimming Lessons, Bitter Orange and Unsettled Ground. I’m a huge fan!
With thanks to Fig Tree for my proof and beautiful finished copies.
About the author
Claire Fuller is the author of Unsettled Ground (2021), winner of the Costa Novel Award and shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, Bitter Orange (2018), Swimming Lessons (2017), which was shortlisted for the Encore Prize for second novels, and Our Endless Numbered Days (2015) which won the Desmond Elliott Prize for debut fiction.
I absolutely adored this book. I’m not really one for dystopian fiction but I thought this one hit the mark so well. Great review!
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Glad you loved it too!