|About the Book|
James and his parents hurriedly flee a revolution in colonial Africa. During their terrifying drive to the harbour his parent’s frozen marriage breaks apart, the car is attacked by a mob and James’s hero, the mysterious Snake Man – spiritual leader,MoreJames and his parents hurriedly flee a revolution in colonial Africa. During their terrifying drive to the harbour his parent’s frozen marriage breaks apart, the car is attacked by a mob and James’s hero, the mysterious Snake Man – spiritual leader, puppeteer and James’s real father – is strung up from a tree and killed. Something changes inside the boy.Twenty years on. James, now an adult, leaves the quiet English village, where he and his mother settled, and begins a new life in North London. He’s looking for something: A vocation? A place where a mixed-race young man could call home? An end to his recurring nightmares? He begins a teacher training course and is placed in vibrant, tough, multicultural comprehensive.It’s not quite the new start he expected. The job is more about crowd control than teaching. He staggers from one excruciating, comical disaster to another. His head of department—a burnt out, alcoholic, biscuit-crunching, bear man—takes cynical pleasure in James’s failures and the children veer between disinterest, mockery and violent contempt. In desperation James turns to the magical ceremonies practiced by the Snake Man for assistance.But the Animal Within is only partly about ‘the experiences of a young teacher’, albeit one with a complex heritage. It’s a journey into James’s interior world. His interpretation of reality is a mix of pseudo-science, Art history and African mysticism. He identifies those around him by their ‘animal’ and one is never quite sure what is real and what is imagined. It’s a world where Pablo Picasso—world famous artist and part-time school caretaker—can dispense advice from the afterlife, where dried fish in an African grocer form a community of whispering spirits and where the animals inside us can emerge at any moment, causing madness and confusion. But at its core, it’s a story is about a young man trying to understand himself and his place in the world.