Patricia on Platypi, Malteses, Chameleons and Kangaroos in Fiction

You can judge a book by its cover.  There, I said it.  I know it.  It’s just that sometimes you’re on a break and you need to grab something quick.  And sometimes you don’t really have time to read the blurbs of tens or even a couple of books.  So you grab the one with the weirdest cover.  And it happens to be bright orange.  With a platypus on the cover.  And you read it.  And like it.

And want other people to read it and like it too.

The book (Albert of Adelaide, by Howard Anderson, if you must know) is really different.  And entertaining.  And it’s about the platypus that is depicted on the cover.  His name is Albert and he’s on a quest to find Old Australia — a near-mythical place where there are no people or zoos.  (He’s escaped from a zoo in Adelaide you see…)  As with all quests, he meets a number of colourful characters along the way and has experiences that nearly kill him and help him grow.  If you had  read reviews of it, you maybe would’ve passed on it for being too ‘out there’.  But the cover was orange.  With a platypus on the cover.  So you didn’t.

In reading that particular book you wonder are there other enjoyable novels out there for adults where talking animals are the main characters?  You mean, of course, other than the classics like Bulgakov’s The Heart of a Dog (which was quite literally fabulous).

Funny you should ask.  I was just wondering the same thing.  Here’s what I came up with:

If you’re all about dogs, try… The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of his Friend Marilyn Monroe, by Andrew O’Hagan. Marilyn Monroe’s maltese, Mafia Honey, or Maf for short, tells the story of the last two years of Marilyn’s life.  ‘Cause who would know more about them than her pooch?


If you’re gung-ho for geckoes, try… The Book of Chameleons, by Jose Eduardo Agualusa. Eulalio is a house gecko who watches over the home of Felix Ventura.  Felix is an albino Angolan who sells falsified artistocratic pasts.  Intrigued yet? As an added bonus, you get to check off Angola in your World Lit Bingo game.  That is, if you’re into that kind of thing.

If one talking animal is as good as another, try Gun, With Occasional Music, by Jonathan Lethem. Jonathan Lethem’s debut novel features, among other creatures, a trigger-happy kangaroo.  Oakland is the setting.  The time is the not-so-distant future.  Animals have evolved and are valued members of society.  If you like sci-fi, noir and mystery mixed in with your satire, this one is for you.


I wonder if it comes in orange?



  1. Sight Hound by Pam Houston has parts of the story told from the perspective of the main characters pet dog and cat. Whilst I prefer Houston’s short stories, this novel was still a good read.

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 )

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s