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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on February 8, 2008
The central character, who is also the narrator of this story, is the force which gives the novel its incredible emotional power. Animal, so named because his twisted back forces him must walk on all fours, was the victim of a toxic gas leak from a foreign-owned company in the Indian town of Khaufpur. Animal is crass, obsessed with sex and self-interested enough to slip drugs into a love rival's drinks. Despite this he is an earthy, funny, self-aware and thoroughly likeable character and a brutally honest narrator.

It is perhaps not possible for someone who has not lived through such horrors to truly understand what it must be like for those who have, but getting to know Animal allows us to come as close as we are likely to get. Animal's dealings with the foreign `doctress' Elli also give us a window of understanding that opens onto the chasm that divides most readers from Animal's world, not just because we have not experienced the kind of atrocity he has, but because we are affluent and privileged.

This is a book about cynical exploitation by big business of the situation in less affluent countries. It is about the corruption that hampers the fight for justice and compensation for the victims and it is about the lack of any true understanding by outsiders of the real plight of those who live in `the kingdom of the poor'. It is also a book which brings all this alive in a very visceral way. Noone could be left untouched after reading this novel.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 2008
It's rare to come across a book with a truly original voice, but that occurs in Animal's People. The protagonist, Animal, is a brilliant, damaged young man who had survived most of his life by his raw intelligence. Because of this -- because of the harsh environment he has grown up in, the abuse he has suffered, etc. -- it is jarring to hear him speak and think like a "normal" person. And yet he does. Animal, despite his apparent madness at times, is one of the most fully developed HUMAN characters I have seen in a novel.

Beyond the wonder of experiencing Animal, the reader is taken on an adventure through the hells of an insubstantial legal system. Justice is a major theme in the book, but the story leaves the reader wondering just how one is supposed to obtain justice if it cannot be obtained through the courts or the government. Should one resort to violence? Peaceful protests? And at what point should one give up on the search for justice?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2013
In December of 1984, a gas leak from the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India killed more than 2,000 people in a single night. 8,000 more people died within two weeks, and official estimates suggest an additional 8,000 have died in the years since. The nearly 20,000-person death toll does not include the thousands of people - many of them children - who were cripplingly injured as a result of the most horrific act of corporate negligence in global history.

This novel, written by a longtime Bhopal activist, is narrated from the perspective of one of those injured children. "Animal," as he is called, has a twisted spine as a result of the disaster, and therefore cannot stand upright, but instead must drag himself along the ground like an animal. When the book opens, his only real friend is another 'animal' like him - a stray dog. The book dramatizes Animal's long struggle to be understood as human in the eyes of those around him.

I ordered this book because I was considering putting it on a world literature syllabus. I was fascinated by the way that Sinha attempted to tackle such a huge, unthinkable, highly politicized event through the eyes of a single character who struggles to gain a broader perspective on events, and I thought that the book might make a good pairing with the works of JM Coetzee, which also addresses fundamental ethical questions by asking "what makes us human, and distinguishes us from animals?"

Ultimately, though, I found the book unsatisfying. The book is written in an idiom that is familiar to anyone who has kept up with Booker Prize winners over the years: a lilting, fractured, in this case, amusingly scatalogical English that put me in mind of Aravind Adiga's "White Tiger." Maybe I'm just burnt out on this style of writing, but his voice quickly came to wear on me. I was jarred by the endless jokiness and direct addresses to the reader, and found myself continually putting the book down.

Maybe I was just not the right reader for this book. I think my curiosity about the facts of Bhopal made me less patient with this books' endlessly showy pyrotechnics of character and voice; others may certainly feel differently.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 1, 2008
The book starts with a powerful dialouge, "I wish to be a human once." This story is based on a true incident that occured in BHOPAL, a place in India. A chemical industry, Union Carbide, now owned by Dow Chemicals, had its factories located in the vicinity of the city. On the ill-fated winter of Dec, the poisonous gas leaks out and nearly 20,000 people are dead. For more details about the true incident, please go to [...]

STORY --> The narrator of the story survived that night but at the cost of his legs. He has to now "walk" like an animal. He soon joins a group of young people who are fighting for justice. Through his eyes you shall know about the characters in the story, their struggle and also his secret love.
I loved this book and the simplicity of its narration. In the story, the narrator is actually narrating the incident and life style of the Indian city to an American journalist, so the Indian words are well described in the book.
Also this was shortlisted for the prestigious Booker Prize - 2007
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2008
Indra Sinha's Booker shortlisted novel "Animal's People" takes as its subject the aftermath of a chemical contamination disaster in India that has poisoned, maimed and destroyed whole communities including its self-named central character Animal who due to a deformed back is now reduced to walking like an animal on all fours. Serious issues of government corruption and cover up from inducements offered by unscrupulous multinationals, western perspective of third world realities as seen through the eyes of liberal journalists, etc are dealt with in a vernacular ridden narrative - shades of David Mitchell's "Cloud Atlas" - that reads like a post-apocalyptic comedic nightmare.

The pidgin-like language is initially hard to get into - what a bother to consult the large glossary of hindi words at the back of the book - but you soon get used to it when read fast. Animal's sex deprived sex obsessed psyche is funny and touching to a point but it is the essence of his surviving humanity beneath his deformed shell that draws its sharpest contrast against the rest of normal humanity and their unconscionable acts. Sinha's characters are never less than fascinating - there's the Mother Theresa type figure of the French nun driven mad by the catastrophe, the courageous educated local hero willing to sacrifice his life for justice, the female love interest in a three ( no, make that two and a half) cornered love affair, the romantic musician, and not least of all the righteous doctor from the first world taking up the cause of its victims.

The story gallops along nicely until stalled by an overlong clinic boycott episode before quickly regaining pace and building up to a thrilling climax which has each side lined up against the other for a fight to the death. Having said that, the drug induced dream like sequence just before the end is rather confusing and nearly ruined it for me.

Sinha tells a serious story but his tone is comic and satirical throughout. Animal's cultural misunderstanding of the significance of a kiss between the western doctor and her visiting husband is a hoot. "Animal's People" is so life affirming and has so many great moments you cannot fail to be charmed by it. A highly recommended read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2009
A Breath of Fresh Air

An absolutely stunning, sad and horrifying read, yet with a very human touch and an (almost) happy ending! At first I found it a bit difficult to get used to the writing style, but once I got into it I found it very hard to put this book down.

While I am not going to write about the books contents (the other reviews and the product description have already taken care of this), I would like to recommend that you visit the author's website [...] if you are interested in background information on the book and why it was written. Also have a look at [..] - an entire website created around the book and the fictional city of Khaufpur! Look at the classifieds - you can take singing lesson from Awaaz-e-Khaufpur or see Dr. Barber at her clinic... Lastly, you should visit [...] where you can find full details on Bhopal (Sinha's Khaufpur)and the terrible disaster that happened there in 1984. While I was too young to consciously remember it when it actually happened, I found out about it a few years ago when I read Amulya Malladi's book "A Breath of Fresh Air", which I can also highly recommend and which will give you another account of families affected by the Bhopal tragedy. People in Bhopal are still suffering, and I can only hope that books like "Animal" and "A Breath of Fresh Air" will keep it in people's minds!
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on August 4, 2014
Animal's People is a novel based on the true story of a chemical factory explosion in Bhopal in 1984 that killed thousands and left countless others with serious medical illnesses. It was a finalist in 2007 of the Man Booker Prize. The book follows the life of "Animal," a young man whose spine was deformed as a result of his exposure the chemicals and thus has to walk on all fours. The narrative is told in a series of recorded tapes from Animal to a Western journalist, although it reads like regular prose. The book opens in the following way, "I used to be human once. So I'm told. I don't remember it myself, but the people who knew me when I was small say I walked on two feet just like a human being." What follows is in many ways Animal's journey to regain his humanity although for most of the book he embraces his nickname and renounces the notion of his humanity. When an American doctor tries to set up a clinic in his town to treat those impacted by their exposure to chemicals, Animal becomes torn between "loyalties" to a group of political activists from his town (mainly driven by his love for one of the women) and the new doctor who promises a glimmer of hope for his own medical condition.

Once I got past the profanity, I really enjoyed this book. The book is tragic in that it covers a horrible incident, describes the poverty and hopelessness in a town impacted by an industrial accident. Yet, in many ways this was a book about resilience, friendship, and love. Animal is profane and irreverent, yet it is his style that helps to lighten the book. He finds humor in his surroundings and is rarely self-pitying and always fighting to survive. In some ways the characters do come across as caricatures: the political activists, the young Western idealist doctor who has little awareness of the culture, etc. The ending seemed slightly unrealistic (overly optimistic given the context) but despite these flaws, I really enjoyed it. I loved how Animal was a flawed man who despite his early tragedy was able to bring together a group of different people and create warm and touching bonds.

Warning: There is a lot of profane language (lots of use of the c-word). This profanity is particularly prominent in the first 50 pages. It fits with the character and once you get into the book it is less bothersome but be forewarned if this will bother you.

Quotes:
"If you want my story, you'll have to put up with how I tell it."

"as the words pop out of my mouth they rise up in the dark, the eyes in a flash are onto them, the words start out kind of misty, like breath on a cold day, as they lift they change colours and shapes, they become pictures of things and people."

"When something big like that night happens, time divides into before and after, the before time breaks up into dreams, the dreams dissolve to darkness."

"To be trapped in an animal body is hell, if you dream of being human."

"Hope dies in places like this, because hope lives in the future and there's no future here, how can you think about tomorrow when all your strength is used up trying to get through today?"

"I am Animal fierce and free in all the world is none like me."
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on January 13, 2015
This novel, based on the Bhopal disaster which rivaled Chernobyl in scale, tells the story of Animal, a young man whose back was twisted by the toxic fumes that leaked from the factory in the city he calls home. Rather than risk giving away too much of the story, I will briefly state why this book is excellent and then I will leave it up to you to read it or not (though I highly recommend you do.)

Animal’s People deals with many underlying themes, such as racism, classism, friendship, environmental and industrial disasters, and the coming of age of an unconventional hero. While based on actual events, it is a haunting story of a young man’s struggles through life, partially because of where he was born and in what social group and partially because of his deformity from the industrial disaster.
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on June 1, 2010
The best contemporary literature I've read since One Hundred Years of Solitude. Indra Sinha gave his readers emotional depth, divine and angst relationships, connected characterizations, extravagant scenery, payback for crimes and best of all - humanity among the poor who only sought death for eternal peace. The end of the story was a little rushed in the last twenty pages, but the overall reading resonance was exceptional.

I'm Ben Campbell, the author of Dubrovnik, Kissing Freud and It's All Make Believe, Isn't It? *Marilyn Monroe Returns*. Please visit my amazon.com blog and comment on my books. Thank you.
KISSING FREUD
DUBROVNIK
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on April 9, 2011
"you cannot pick up this bk and not be touched by animal." i read that on a review and i feel it's more than true. while there is a lot of crude humor in it - swearing, rude wording, gross humor - i enjoyed it; it added to it's realistic nature and made me believe even more in animal. the story, about the chemical appocolypse in bhopal india will leave your heart open and bare and wanting to do something. beautiful. and so sad.
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