The Sunday Salon-The Good, The Bad, and the…

The Sunday

Oh – hello there! You startled me! I didn’t expect anyone else to be awake in the wee hours of a Sunday morning.  Did you, as I did, fall into the clutches of such a captivating book that you simply couldn’t close your eyes and sleep?  That’s why I’m still awake, curled up in the corner of my easy chair with a soft blanket wrapped round my shoulders and a mug of hot cocoa at my side. 

And what is this bewitching story, a novel so inviting, with characters so charming, I couldn’t bear to set them aside for a few hours?

Called The God of Animals, a first novel from Aryn Kyle, it’s the story of 12 year old Alice Winston, who’s helping her father run the family horse ranch in Desert Valley, Colorado.  Alice’s older sister Nona, the golden girl of the family, has recently absconded with a rodeo cowboy.  Alice’s mother Marian, had taken to her bed not long after Alice’s birth.   “Before we came along,” Nona told Alice, their mother had been a horse show star, had “won right and left, even had her picture in the paper.”  One day she handed baby Alice over to Nona, “said she was tired and went upstairs to rest.  She never came  down.”

And so Alice is left with her taciturn father, a man caught in a perpetual struggle to make ends meet by teaching spoiled little girls and boarding horses for spoiled older girls.  Alice’s hunger for love and attention permeates this novel, and I long to reach into the story and put my arms around her.  Kyle’s writing style is clean and spare, as befits her subject- life on a ranch- not a word wasted, yet each one performing its duty admirably and thoroughly.

“I kept waiting for my father to be struck dumb by my ability to get everything done by myself, to shake his head in amazement and ask what my secret was.  Day after day, I forked fresh straw into every stall and used the hose to wash out the corners of the barn after I had swept.  And day after day, my father said nothing.”


The God of Animals is one of those rare books you can’t seem to put down, but are also loathe to finish.  The kind of book that completely absorbs your attention, with characters so compelling, you’re surprised not to find them sitting at the breakfast table with you. 

You really must read it.

Sadly, I can’t give the same recommendation to The Gathering, Anne Enright’s Booker Prize winning novel about an Irish family who gathers for the burial of their son/brother, Liam, who committed suicide.  And really, it’s more about Liam’s sister, Veronica, who seems consumed with guilt about a “secret” she has kept regarding her brother’s life, a secret she feels may have contributed to his death. 

Enright is obviously a gifted writer, capturing the particular lilt of the Irish and Veronica’s tortured psyche equally well.  But somehow, I could never muster up any sympathy for any of these people, Veronica included.  And while I did continue reading until the book’s conclusion, I found the experience more disturbing than satisfying.  

However, if you would like to read the novel and form your own opinion, I’m offering my copy to the first commenter who who expresses a desire to decide for themselves.

Meanwhile, I’m back to The God of Animals, and dear little Alice, whom I’m afraid has started looking for love in all the wrong places.  I’m actually quite concerned…

And I’m afraid I’ll never get any sleep tonight.


11 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon-The Good, The Bad, and the…

  1. Interesting comment about Ann Enright’s book – I’ve got it on my stack of ‘to read’ and I seem to have avoided it for no obvious reason, apart from the fact of course that my stack is very high and growing.
    I have not read the God of Animals and this sounds like a must. Shall add it to the ‘wish list’….

  2. I’ve just signed up for the Sunday Salon which is what brought me to your little corner of the Internet – I have to say that I love the way you write and will be subscribing to your blog straight away!

    I’ve just added The God of Animals to my wish list – which I fear may have trebled if not quadrupled by the time I finish today’s tour the homes of other Sunday Salon readers!

  3. I’m simply going to have to read the Enright and make up my own mind. I’m hearing so many different views about it. But I’ll definitely keep my eyes open for the Kyle as well. There is nothing as satisfying as finding a new author, is there?

  4. Enright is there on my TBR list and I am yet to read that. Eventually I will get around it.

    The God of Animals seems like a great book to read. I will consider getting it!

    BTW, I too read until 2 am on some days!


  5. The God of Animals sounds wonderful I’v added it to my TBR list. My MIL gave me The Gathering and I have to admit neither the story outline or the cover really caught my attention, after reading your review it has been regulated even further down the TBR pile.

  6. I feel “justified” in my feelings about “The Gathering” – there is a sense of “loneliness” when you read a book that doesn’t grip you, that you can’t connect with and find disturbing. To know that someone else has read these same words and come away with the same feeling is like finding someone else standing with you in the dark.

    “The God of Animals” is definitely going on my TBR list – I find that we have similar taste in what we enjoy with literature and authors…..I’m glad I had time to pop in to the salon before leaving to take oldest back to Uni.

    I wasn’t reading last night — I watched two films until the early hours — “Becoming Jane” which was a little disappointing — a bit fluffy; and “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” which was captivating and moving but I enjoyed the Helen Mirren “Elizabeth” much more. Tonight is “The Jane Austen Book Club” – I read this book, or one very like it years ago — I’ll know if it’s the same story once I’ve viewed the film.

  7. Seachanges – I’ll be interested in your feelings about The Gathering, whenever it arrives at the top of your TBR list!

    Mrs. S – Welcome to Sunday Salon, and Bookstack! Thank you so much for your kind words 🙂

    Ann- I’m interested to see what you think of the Enright…and I think you would enjoy The God of Animals. Yes, I’m always excited to discover a new author, especially one as young as Kyle, with a promising future ahead.

    Gautami -Ahh, so you’re a late night reader too! Although your nighttime is my daytime, since we’re on opposite sides of the hemisphere 🙂

    Alix-Do give The Gathering a try – I’d like to know what you think of it…

    Sherry – How right…it is a bit of a lonely feeling when you don’t like a book, especially one that has won a prestigious prize. And I agree about Becoming Jane – didn’t care for it either. However, I thought The Jane Austen Book Club was charming 🙂

  8. How intriguing! I haven’t heard of the God of Animals, but you make it sound magical. I’ll have to see whether it’s available in the UK. I haven’t read the Enright yet, either, and have heard very mixed things of it. But I will, because the divided opinions make me curious!

  9. Oh, dear, Becca — after I read your blog, I always have more decisions to make about what to read — and less and less time to read it in! (I, too, have had that “can’t go to bed” feeling when I read something wonderful! It’s a great feeling!)

  10. I have not heard many good things about The Gathering but I still feel like I need to read it. You know. And, I will definitely add God of Animals to my ever-growing list 🙂

  11. Somehow I felt depressed by the description of The Gathering when I first read about it. I think I’ll at least borrow it from the library and see what I think of it.

    I haven’t heard of The God of Animals, but it does sound more appealing than The Gathering. I’ll definitely look out of it. Thanks for the review

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