Only the Animals by Ceridwen Dovey

9781926428581Winner of the Readings New Australian Writing Award 2014

Perhaps only the animals can tell us what it is to be human.

The souls of ten animals caught up in human conflicts over the last century tell their astonishing stories of life and death. In a trench on the Western Front a cat recalls her owner Colette’s theatrical antics in Paris. In Nazi Germany a dog seeks enlightenment. A Russian tortoise once owned by the Tolstoys drifts in space during the Cold War. In the siege of Sarajevo a bear starving to death tells a fairytale. And a dolphin sent to Iraq by the US Navy writes a letter to Sylvia Plath . . .

Exquisitely written, playful and poignant, Only the Animals is a remarkable literary achievement by one of our brightest young writers. An animal’s-eye view of humans at out brutal, violent worst and our creative, imaginative best, it asks us to find out way back to empathy not only for animals, but for other people, and to believe again in the redemptive power of reading and writing fiction.

The insight that “perhaps only the animals can tell us what it is to be human” turns the notion of anthropomorphism on its head. These tales are not intended to reveal an understanding of the animals who speak to us, these tales reflect an image of humanity
back at ourselves that is both daunting and confronting.


This text can be accessed by students at a range of levels. On the simplest level, these
are rich, engaging tales of love and loss in times of conflict. They are stand-alone stories
of animals and their interaction with the species that is supposedly, superior to all others.

An excellent choice for secondary students in Year 10 onward, a free, downloadable teaching unit for Only the Animals can be found HERE 


Image | This entry was posted in Australian Curriculum, Death and Bereavement, Historical, Relationships, Resources, Teaching Notes and Units of Work, Watch. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s