2019 Longlist

English Animals



When Mirka gets a job in a country house in rural England, she has no idea of the struggle she faces to make sense of a very English couple, and a way of life that is entirely alien to her. Richard and Sophie are chaotic, drunken, frequently outrageous but also warm, generous and kind to Mirka, despite their argumentative and turbulent marriage.

Mirka is swiftly commandeered by Richard for his latest money-making enterprise, taxidermy, and soon surpasses him in skill. After a traumatic break two years ago with her family in Slovakia, Mirka finds to her surprise that she is happy at Fairmont Hall. But when she tells Sophie that she is gay, everything she values is put in danger and she must learn the hard way what she really believes in.

English Animals is a funny, subversive, poignant and beautifully written novel about a doomed love affair, a certain kind of Englishness and prejudice.

About the author

Laura Kaye  grew up in rural Oxfordshire and lives in London. English Animals is her first book.

Librarian’s comments:

Mirka, a young woman from Slovakia, is happy to start a job in rural England. Beyond helping in a household that provides weddings and hunting parties she is expected to help in her employer’s newest venture-taxidermy. Soon she gains skill and fulfilment in this strange job. Her employers, a couple with difficulties in their own relationship, become a substitute family for the young woman who had been cast our by her parents because of her homosexuality. A love affair between the landlady and her puts to the test a lot-tolerance, tradition, support. And it’s not the traditions and the rebuff of the older generation which makes her leave for multi-ethnic London but the prejudices of the younger. Writing from the perspective of Mirka and thus put in a plain language of one not using mother tongue, the author portrays English county life and taxidermy thus representing the longing for permanence. English Animals is a coming-of–age story,  about open or closed society, with vivid detail and last but not least, provides a good laugh from time to time.


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