The Memory of Animals by Claire Fuller #review

Book cover of The Memory of Animals by Claire Fuller

Title: The Memory of Animals
Claire Fuller
Publisher: Penguin


In the face of a pandemic, an unprepared world scrambles to escape the mysterious disease’s devastating symptoms: sensory damage, memory loss, death. Neffy, a disgraced and desperately indebted twenty-seven-year-old marine biologist, registers for an experimental vaccine trial in London―perhaps humanity’s last hope for a cure. Though isolated from the chaos outside, she and the other volunteers―Rachel, Leon, Yahiko, and Piper―cannot hide from the mistakes that led them there.

As London descends into chaos outside the hospital windows, Neffy befriends Leon, who before the pandemic had been working on a controversial technology that allows users to revisit their memories. She withdraws into projections of her past―a childhood bisected by divorce; a recent love affair; her obsessive research with octopuses and the one mistake that ended her career. The lines between past, present, and future begin to blur, and Neffy is left with defining questions: Who can she trust? Why can’t she forgive herself? How should she live, if she survives?

The Memory of Animals is an ambitious, deeply imagined work of survival and suspense, grief and hope, consequences and connectedness, that asks what truly defines us―and the lengths we will go to rescue ourselves and those we love.

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My review:

In The Memory of Animals, Claire Fuller tells the story of Neffy, a volunteer in a medical trial for a new vaccine during a pandemic caused by the ‘Dropsy virus’. With an untested vaccine, the situation is risky, and when Neffy wakes up, she finds herself alone in the test centre with only a few fellow Guinea Pigs. They must survive in a world where it seems like everyone else is dying.

Fuller’s dystopian novel feels uncomfortably realistic due to the subject matter – we’ve all lived through a pandemic recently – but for me that made it more interesting, though unsettling too. The book is multilayered, with Neffy’s memories of her parents, revealing more about her family life and the reason behind her decision to volunteer for the paid trial. While the letters Neffy writes to ‘H,’ an octopus she once knew as a marine biologist, weren’t as interesting to read about, they added a unique dimension to the story.

The pace of the book could have been faster, and the plot didn’t entirely live up to my expectations. I anticipated more danger and information about the urgent pandemic world, but most of the story centred around Neffy inside the trial centre and her pre-virus memories. Nevertheless, the skilful writing by Fuller made it an enjoyable read, and while it didn’t blow me away, I appreciated the book’s quality.

Although I may have set my expectations too high based on my love for Fuller’s Unsettled Ground, The Memory of Animals is still an interesting and enjoyable read.

My rating: 3.25/5

Many thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this book on which I chose to write an honest review.


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