Review by the Book Decoder

Thank you to the Book Decoder for this lovely review:

We are Animals by Tim Ewins is a hilarious and enjoyable journey of a man called Jan.

Well, it’s not just Jan who’s in the story. There’s Shakey, Pricha the cow, an overenthusiastic puppy, happy-unhappy-happy-unhappy man, Michael, Hylad and another Jan. The Jan who tells Shakey his story is ManJan. He’s in search of LadyJan, the love of his life. Fate brings the two together. The same Fate breaks them apart. They again meet years later, only to break up again.

Fast forward to the 2016 and here’s ManJan, at the Pololem beach in Goa, waiting for LadyJan to appear out of nowhere. (But she’s no Houdini)

Tim Ewins takes his readers on an exciting, hilarious and adventurous journey of ManJan. From being pickpocketed at Sweden (not Norway) to drinking wine on a beach in Goa, ManJan’s been there, done that.

I will not talk much about ManJan. I want you guys to read about him and enjoy the story. 🙂 Pricha the cow was being a kabab mein haddi in the story but frankly, mooooooo! She bobbed her head to the disco musik, making her one of the cutest bovines in the story. (The other two bovines are her bull dad and cow mother).

I was a tad lost as I started to read the book. Vest, moustache, cow, I had a hard time understanding what was happening. Then the ‘vest’ who is called Shakey sits next to ‘moustache’ – ManJan and the story begins. A story that takes ManJan, LadyJan and the readers to Sweden(not Norway), Poland, Ukraine, Moscow and India. Of course, not to forget, ManJan’s hometown- Fishton, a fish town.

As ManJan started to talk about himself, I knew this book was going to be one of my best reads of 2020. As the story ended, I felt things ended abruptly. But giving it a second thought, I guess the story couldn’t have a better ending than this.

Hilarious, Heart-breaking, and Absolutely Entertaining, I highly recommend you to read We Are Animals by Tim Ewins.

Book Reviews by Satabdi

Thank you to Satabdi for this review:

I jumped at the chance to read this book because it was set in India–my home country. I was so happy to see that much of the action takes place at Palolem beach, Goa, one of my favorite beaches.

Essentially, this is a story of love, loss, and longing. “ManJan” travels the world with a feisty “LadyJan,” and they forge many friendships on the way. In a bizarre twist of fate, ManJan rediscovers each of these friendships as he revisits all the places he had gone with LadyJan. Only this time, he is looking for her and hoping that fate throws them together again.

I’m not sure how to go about describing the book because I’ve never read something like this before. The author writes in a most unconventional manner. He finds humor in the tiniest details, such as a cockroach constantly turning to its right, banging its head on the “same bit of boat” and wondering why it can’t escape.

At first, it seemed to me that the story was just absurd. But then it proceeded to become a most tender and endearing tale about friendship, love, and heartbreak. The pace is leisurely, and this may be a bit of a challenge if you’re looking for something to happen quickly. In the latter half of the book, you begin to see the connections between the seemingly isolated events happening in each chapter.

I loved the fact that there’s some commentary on homosexuality quietly tucked into the story.

Each chapter features a different creature. You read about a cow’s predilection to look at sunsets, crabs rolling sand balls (because that’s just what they do!), cockroaches taking wrong turns and getting confused, quails losing their precious eggs, and so on. The stories of the creatures have a sort of parallel to the happenings in the chapter.

The passion of youth (Shakey) and the fatigue of old age (Manjan) is well-contrasted. Manjan’s journey from “a poxy vest” to “a mustache” forms the basis of the story.

I particularly enjoyed the hilarious portrayal of things that are uniquely Indian, such as bathing in the filthy Ganges river, the holy status of the cow (until it is too old to be maintained), the “spiritual” aura of Goa’s beaches, and adults bathing in the ocean fully clothed.

We Are Animals is a sparkling debut by Tim Ewins laced with wit and humor and features some marvelous storytelling!

Bookish Jottings Review

Thank you to Bookish Jottings for this lovely review!

A quirky, uplifting and emotional tale of love lost and found, unexpected twists of fate and the power of friendship, Tim Ewins’s We Are Animals is a thought-provoking and heart-warming read that is wonderfully written and beautifully vivid.

Jan finds himself staring out to sea in Goa thinking about his life and what might have been and what has been lost. He still finds himself thinking fondly of the passport-thief he had met nearly five decades ago. Back then, fate seemed to delight in going out of its way to bring the two of them together, yet lately the two seem to have gone on different paths and have seldom been in contact; something which Jan has grown to regret. Jan has led quite an active life in between reuniting and losing the one who had stolen his heart. He has never given up hope that he might end up reuniting with the passport thief who had changed his life – but in the meantime he has got plenty to keep him busy, including a rather unexpected arrival in his life.

Amidst the many countries he has travelled, the many animals he has adopted (or that have adopted him), Jan finds himself crossing paths with a very annoying teenager who simply will not leave him alone. Jan cannot help but find the teenager totally and utterly infuriating, but should Jan be so quick in wanting to be shot of this aggravating companion he has acquired? After all, if he wants to be reunited with the missing thief, Jan needs all the help he can get – and maybe this time fate has opted to send him assistance in the most unlikely of packages!

I wasn’t sure what to make of We Are Animals at first as it was rather different to the kind of books I usually read, but I couldn’t fail to be charmed by Tim Ewins’ vivid and engaging voice. A talented author with a magical gift for deftly and effortlessly transporting readers to the places described in the book, Tim Ewins has written a captivating, enjoyable and poignant read with We Are Animals, a fantastic novel that will make readers laugh, cry and think.

Author Interview with The Magic Wor(l)ds

Thank you to The Magic Wor(l)ds Blog for having me on. You can read it here:

Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?

Hi Stefanie, thank you so much for having me as a guest blogger! I’ve always wanted to be an author…in fact, eight years ago, I started writing a book called ‘How to Write a Book,’ but after starting the first chapter I realised that I probably wasn’t the right person to write that book. Oh, and I realised that it probably already existed, and that I should probably read it.

Since then, writing a novel has always been in the back of my mind. I embarked on a stand-up comedy career (alongside a more normal career in finance) and then left it all behind and went travelling with my wife. When I came back, I started working on my first novel; We Are Animals, which is largely set in the countries we visited.

Which books did/do you love to read as a child/now as a grown-up?

I was big into Roald Dahl when I was a kid, always dreaming of all the magical crazy worlds he concocted. The beauty of his writing is that it can appeal to every age; I remember starting young with The Enormous Crocodile and then moving onto George’s Marvellous Medicine and Matilda. As a teenager I carried on, reading The Wonderful World of Henry Sugar, Boy and Danny the Champion of the World. In a similar vein, I remember my grandad reading Spike Milligan poems to me and both of us loving the nonsensical whimsy in them.

My tastes probably haven’t changed much as an adult. I love Jonas Jonasson (The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared) and Andrew Kaufman (All My Friends are Superheroes) so it’s all slightly surreal humour.

More than anything now, as an adult, I love reading books to my two-year-old. I bought him The Enormous Crocodile just last week in fact, or, as he likes to call it, ‘big snap snap.’

Is there a writer whose brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?

He is a totally different type of author to the ones I’ve discussed so far, but I would love to have a chat with Khaled Hosseini. His novels are so desperate and tragic, but also completely engaging, hopeful and full of beauty. I’d love to know more about his inspiration and the process he uses. I’d also like to tell him how A Thousand Splendid Suns had me in floods of tears on a crowded train in India, and how I hold him directly responsible for that.

If you could, which fictional character (from your own book(s) or someone else’s) would you like to invite for tea and why?

Oh, I’d have Professor Dumbledore over for sure, if for no other reason than the feasts at Hogwarts always sound amazing. I’d like to think he’d be able to create one of those feasts round at my house, although I suppose that wouldn’t make me a very good host, and I’d need to buy a bigger table.

From We Are Animals I think I’d like to meet Hylad; a big, soft, northern bloke who spends most of his life living in Sweden looking for someone who isn’t there. I think he’d be good company!

Do you have some rituals or habits whilst writing?

In all honesty, I wrote almost all of We Are Animals during my lunch breaks at work over a period of four years so I guess my biggest ritual was to make sure I’d prepared a packed lunch the night before so I didn’t have to leave the office. Occasionally I wrote on a bus or on a train, and then I liked to try and get a seat to myself. Reading that back, I certainly don’t write in luxury, do I?!

Where do you come up with your idea(s)? Do people in your life need to be worried? 😉

Absolutely they should be worried. Many of the characters in We Are Animals are based on people I met whilst I was travelling, and my second novel may as well be called ‘my nan’. I find that I can write a character better if it’s based loosely on someone, but then I’ll put them in a new situation and imagine how they might react. I would never want to write about anyone I didn’t like though, so no one needs to be that worried…

Are you a plotter or do you go with the flow, as a pantser?

We Are Animals was pantsed. I roughly knew where the characters were headed geographically and I had a very basic outline for the structure, but I let the characters do as they pleased in between those lines and I enjoyed seeing where that took me. We ended up in an unexpected country at one point and I learnt an awful lot from the research that one character basically forced me to do. I liked the idea of making it up as I went along because to an extent, the whole book is an old man’s tall tale to a teenager who is barely listening to him on a beach. That said, my wife did remind me that I needed to add a plot at one point.

Can you give novice writers some tips (do’s/don’ts)?

I never joined any writer’s groups when I started writing We Are Animals because I didn’t know they existed. I think that was a blessing and a curse, because it meant that I didn’t have anyone guiding what I should and shouldn’t write, or how I should or shouldn’t do it. Since I have joined some groups online, I’ve received a lot of advice and I’ve found some of it incredibly helpful. I’ve also received some advice that I’ve not taken, but that I’m still grateful for. My advice to a new writer would be to listen to other writers and readers, take what everyone has to say on board because everyone’s opinion is important, but to ultimately do what works for you, and to write what you like to read.

What are your futureplans as an author?

I’ve actually finished writing the first draft for my second novel and I’ve just started editing and working on my third. My only real plan is to keep writing… maybe for my fourth, I could write that book about how to write a book?

Last, but not least : Can you give my readers one teaser from your book, which is featured here on my blog, please?

I would absolutely love to. One of the main characters in We Are Animals refers to a certain category of traveller as being ‘vests’. The following extract is the definition of a ‘vest’ through the older characters eyes:

You could be forgiven for thinking that vests can see in the dark. They’re regularly found at night and they’re often luminous. They congregate on small beaches in Thailand and India, or on large beaches in Australia for the high season. It’s on these beaches that they successfully, quickly and loudly, find themselves. They find that the country they’re in is in actual fact their spiritual home, and they always seem to be holding a small plastic bucket of vodka and Red Bull.
The truth is that vests cannot see in the dark – not everything, anyway. They can only see other vests. They rarely see workers, restaurant owners, cleaners, the elderly or parts of the world without sand.
After dark, vests glow. This attracts other vests, and they discuss the ways in which the small particles of eroded rock beneath their feet have changed their outlook on life completely, and how they don’t know if they could live in a Western society again. They discuss the blogs they’ve written (which are normally about small plastic buckets of vodka and Red Bull) and then later they find that they’re both in the new spiritual home for two months, and that they’re going to share the same flight home. Then they discuss the ‘not even in the cinema yet’ film it turns out they’d both watched on the flight out.

***

Being a vest is only a temporary condition which is normally cured by the vest holding onto the material that’s loosely hanging by its side and pulling its hands upwards and over its head. Once this process has been followed, the vest begins to realise that there is no spiritual home, it has crabs living in its flip flops and that it is in desperate need of a shower.
Often, later in life, a vest will become something useful like a doctor, a builder or a teacher. No one will know about its two months of being a vest, and an ex-vest will tend to lie about it. Lots of ex-vests will revisit the spiritual home some years later with their children and there will be new vests scattered around the beach.
Ex-vests don’t usually like new vests, and they tend to mumble about them under their breath.
‘Another poxy vest,’ they mumble.

Author Interview with Herding Cats

Thank you to Herding Cats Blog for having me! You can read it here:

What do you think makes a good story?

Hi Herding Cats! Thank you for having me. Like most writers, I’ve spent most of my life reading. When I was a child, I was a big fan of Roald Dahl (and I still am). I liked the suspense he created in ‘Matilda’ and ‘The B.F.G’, and the whimsical nature of ‘The Twits’ and ‘George’s Marvellous Medicine’.

Now, as an adult, I like books like ‘The Girl on the Train’ (Paula Hawkins) and ‘An Isolated Incident’ (Emily Maguire) because I still love that suspense, and I also love reading more whimsical books such as ‘The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared’ (Jonas Jonasson) and ‘Elefant’ (Martin Suter).

So I think, for me, a good story has suspense, whimsy and heart (because every story needs that right?)

Let’s talk about We Are Animals. There are 22 animals in the book. Why?

There are two answers to this question. The first is simply due to my love of animals. There are a group of crabs in the first chapter, and I found myself researching sand bubbler crabs for about three hours after watching them on a beach in Goa. It was the enjoyment of that research that persuaded me to incorporate as many different types of animals as possible. The characters go to ten countries in total, and I’ve learnt a lot about some fairly niche species.

The second answer goes back to the first question. Some of my favourite books as a child were about animals (Charlotte’s Webb, The Sheep-Pig etc), and I thought, maybe adults would enjoy the same kind of surreal escapism that animals can bring in literature.

What themes do you explore in your writing?

When I first started to write We Are Animals, I didn’t know what genre I was going for. Now I’ve finished it, I still don’t really know what genre it is. It’s probably literary fiction, because that covers all strands of fiction, right?

I used to perform stand-up, so the one genre that is present throughout is comedy. There are plenty of emotional chapters in We Are Animals, and there are quite a few dramatic scenes that hopefully wouldn’t be out of place in a thriller, but I’d like to think that the humour comes through in all the scenes.

What does your family think of your writing?

I’m very lucky to have a very supportive family. It was my wife who, after she had read the first few chapters, convinced me that I should keep writing. At one point she also reminded me to add a plot, which, although obvious, was probably the most crucial piece of advice I ever received!

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

Probably location. I’m one of those writers that you see writing on busses and trains. I book meeting rooms during my work lunch breaks and tap away on my iPad before going back to my desk in the afternoon. I don’t have a ritual as such, or a writing space, I just do it where and when I can.

Where can people find out more about you?

I have an Instagram account which I set up as a reader rather than an author (@quickbooksummaries) where I make inaccurate but humorous book reviews.

As an author, I’m on the usual social media sites; Twitter (@Ewinstim) and Facebook (@timtewins).

Author Interview with Donna’s Book Blog

Thank you to Donna for having me on the blog. You can read the whole interview here:

When did you know that you wanted to be an author?

Hi Donna, thank you for being a part of the blog tour for We Are Animals!

I remember being set homework by my English teacher when I was about thirteen. We had to write a short story and I went to town on it. When my mate read my homework the next day, he joked that I’d, and I quote, ‘written it like it was a book.’ At thirteen, this was clearly a bad thing, but I’ve pretty much carried on writing since then; short stories, songs, stand-up comedy sets, ideas for plays… We Are Animals is my first attempt at a novel though, and whilst I love all writing, I’ve found writing a novel easily the most enjoyable.

What inspired you to write this book?

Writing a book was always something I was going to do at some point. When I went travelling with my wife, we kept a regular blog and I always liked the idea of creating some sort of a plot around it. We Are Animals is set in many of the countries we visited, and it has an exaggerated version of some of our experiences during our travels. When I went back and read the old blog, I noticed how much of it was focused on wildlife, and I wanted to get that into the book somehow. There are so many animals with their own little plots in We Are Animals, it’s like a children’s book for adults.

If you could sell this book in one sentence what would it be?

We Are Animals is a quirky, heart warming tale of lost love, unlikely friendships and fate. Oh, oh, and it’s cheap… 😀

What are you up to next?

I wrote most of We Are Animals on my lunch breaks at work, so it took me about four years to finish. I had an idea that started forming in the back of my mind when I was about halfway through writing it, and I’ve started working on that idea now. I’m about halfway through the new idea now, so hopefully another idea will start forming soon, ready for the third!

Who is your biggest inspiration?

My biggest inspiration is probably my wife, son and cockapoo. There are so many parts of our life that find their way into my writing, uncomfortably so sometimes (long gushing paragraphs about a strand of my wife’s hair that I found in the shower, anyone?) Also, and I know it sounds like a cliché, but there are lots of characters in We Are Animals that are based on people I know or have watched (not in a creepy way) when I’ve been out and about.

I’m a huge fan of Jonas Jonasson and Andrew Kaufman. I took a lot of inspiration from their books. If you haven’t read The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared or All My Friends are Superheroes, you should. I also find myself consistently going back to the whimsical magic of Roald Dahl’s books, even now as an adult. I don’t think you can read any of his book without being inspired in some way.

Babbage and Sweetcorn Review

What a lovely review from Babbage and Sweetcorn, and can I just say, what an excellent name for a blog.

The review is here:

A wonderful blend of different encounters, both good and bad, humour (I was chuckling out loud), love, friendship and fate, We Are Animals is really something a little different.

Written with great tenderness, truth and sprinkled throughout with some great comic one liners, I found this a truly joyful read.

Present day, Goa:  Jan, much to his disappointment, ends up chatting to ‘A Vest’ (young person, on holiday/gap year,  trying to ‘find themselves!) on the beach one day. His name is Shakey and when he asked Jan what he’s doing sitting alone on the beach, Jan begins to tell him his story.

We learn via flash backs of the tale of Jan’s life over the last 54 years. From his childhood back in Fishton, England where he dreamed of travelling, to Sweden, Russia and onto India. We read of the wonderful encounters he has with many different people, from pick pockets to murderers, fishermen to old married couples.  Each story is different yet many are set off by the simplest of actions and somehow along his travels across the world he also managers to keep meeting the same people!  Fate perhaps?

I found this book very original and at the same time told with much warmth for it’s characters, (and animals!), who are, at the end of it all, just ordinary people trying to get on in life.  Each story has a tale of it’s own with much emotion that pulled at the heart strings.  I loved the way it shows how each connection between two people can spark a chain of events that span out like a spiders web, yet somehow still leaves a path back to the start.  I loved it’s humour and found all the the characters such a delightful bunch of personalities.

Guest blog about a research battle

Thank you to Mai’s Musings for inviting me to post a guest blog, which you can read here:

A Research Battle (and my delightful day at the zoo)

 Every writer will tell you how important research is. It can make or break a story. A novel set in history needs the right context to make sense, and a character that isn’t well researched, isn’t always believable. My wife, who works in marketing and has spent a good portion of her career as a copywriter, once reeled off facts about peat to me. To be clear, that’s peat, the substance that accumulates in bogs and out on the moors. She’d spent a week researching it and, to her surprise, she ended up finding it fascinating (I didn’t).

So, when I started researching for my first novel, We Are Animals, I was excited. I wasn’t going to write about peat (or indeed any type of turf), I was going to write about animals. This was the kind of research I could get on board with.

Chapter one. A crab. Not any kind of crab though; a sand bubbler crab, the type of crab that rolls sand into balls whilst scouring the sand for food. You wouldn’t believe how much information there is out there about these crustaceans. I lost a whole morning. Chapter one includes the line:

‘In both directions, he saw several gatherings of bubbler crabs, all rolling the sand into tiny balls behind them. That’s what bubbler crabs do.’

Later in the chapter it says:

‘I’m sixty-four!’ said the man, as a small wave washed away hundreds of the bubbler crabs’ small balls of sand.

One morning of research, right there in two sentences. To be fair, those sentences weren’t all that I gained from that research, I also confused a group of friends in the pub as to why I kept trying to drop sand bubbler crabs into the conversation.

As the book progressed, I learnt about different types of fish, the various religious beliefs surrounding cows and the eating habits of cockroaches. I also got invited to the pub less frequently. When I found that a sub-plot in the book required me to write about otters and their parental relationships, I opened google and typed ‘Otters’…

I called to my son.

‘We need to go to the zoo. It’s for research purposes.’ It’s strange, he doesn’t normally show much interest in my writing…

It turns out that the otters at Bristol Zoo Gardens are brothers. Me and my son watched them together. When one was in the pond, they were both in the pond, when one was relaxing on the little island, they both were. They seemed inseparable. We didn’t learn much about their parental relationships, other than that they leave their mothers around the age of one. After that we researched chips and a small helicopter that moves if you put a pound in it.

The zoo offered a boar, a quail and a rat to add to the book. In this instance, the research had changed the narrative of the book. It’s nice when that happens. It feels productive. (Often, the narrative of the book dictates what you research, and that’s why I spent a month reading various memoirs of everyday life in Soviet Russia).

Eventually, I put the final full-stop on the last sentence of We Are Animals. I sat back looking at the screen. It was an odd feeling. I’d spent four years writing the document in front of me, and four years learning about animals. What would I do with my time now?

I opened google and typed ‘types of cockroaches’ again. I wasn’t ready to let go just yet.

Two hours later I sat next my wife on the sofa.

‘Did you know,’ I said, ‘cockroaches can survive a month without food, and can survive underwater for half an hour. They can hold their breath for up to forty minutes!’

I looked at her expectantly. Why wasn’t she sharing my enthusiasm?

‘Forty minutes?’ she asked and then thought for a second. ‘Did you know that peat can burn underground for over a hundred years.’

Cheryl M-M’s Review

Thank you to Cheryl M-M for this review:

I’m not sure I will ever be able to look at a ‘vest’ again without thinking about the life philosophy of vests in relation to non-vests and the world in general. It’s the kind of thing you are aware of at a subliminal level. You take it in and think nothing more about it – like so many other things.

It’s via the vest that Jan and Shakey make the first connection that leads to a long conversation. Jan reminisces about his lost love. The way his life has intersected with hers at different moments. It not always being the right place or the right time.

What is more important in the grand scheme of things is the way Jan perceives his own impact on the people around him and the world. Like many of us, who walk around in invisible bubbles of our own creation, he believes he walks and has always walked the world without leaving an imprint.

The story shows how his interactions with certain people have indeed left an impression, which is true of everyone. Nobody leaves no imprint at all – everyone influences and has an impact on someone else. Those small moments that mean nothing to many and something to the living beings going through it.

It’s not easy to squeeze this into a specific genre, perhaps because it is on the rim of more than one. It’s speculative, spiritual and very much a contemporary read.

This is very much a story that asks the reader to read between the lines, to make conscious and subconscious connections. Ewins uses the animals to draw parallels, and in a way that in itself is an example of the microcosms we tend to ignore, because of our self-titled and established superiority.

Jane Hunt Review

Thank you to Jane Hunt for this lovely review:

The imagery in this book is clever and enhances the everyday occurrences, making them something special. The description of the beach and its users seen through Manjan’s eyes is the first example of this. The people and the cow, all have an opinion and a purpose, as they share events from their lives. The animals’ actions and thoughts mirror the people throughout the book.

Manjan’s story is poignant and serendipitous. The author makes many of his astute observations through the man who has spent much of his life waiting. There is a balance of humour and sadness, which lets the reader appreciate the emotion and comical aspects of the story. Retrospectively, you learn how Jan ends up the beach in Goa. The people he meets along the way are diverse, and all add to his life journey. The characters are well written, they are authentic and relatable, and make this character-driven tale interesting.

Even if like me, you haven’t visited the places in the book, or didn’t live through the late twentieth century, which I did. the immersive story lets you experience each place and time, through its animal and human characters, and vivid imagery.

The hopeful ending encompasses the quirky nature of the story, whilst achieving a sense of completeness.