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From: The Socialist issue 725, 4 July 2012: Kick 'em out!

Search site for keywords: Children - Commune - Parents - Government

Book review

Various Pets Alive and Dead

Derek Macmillan reviews: Various Pets Alive and Dead by Marina Lewycka.

ISBN: 9781905490912

Various Pets Alive and Dead, by Marina Lewycka, published by Fig Tree

Various Pets Alive and Dead, by Marina Lewycka, published by Fig Tree   (Click to enlarge)

This book, by the author of "Two Caravans", tells two parallel stories about a 1970s hippy commune and the adventures of two of its children in the 21st century. Much of the humour comes from ridiculing some of the more ultra-left views current in the 1970s, then contrasting the morality of the parents with the immoral world in which Serge - one of the children - has become embroiled.

I don't intend to ruin the plot but the banking world is summarised for Serge thus: "Imagine gambling in a casino. Everything you win, you keep. And every time you lose, a kind-hearted donkey called Joe Public comes along with a sack of gold and pays off your debts ... He just has to keep the government onside by keeping them running scared."

Drawn into this world because of the easy money, Serge develops a whole new meaning for the term "fictitious capital." The parts of the financial plot which seem most bizarre, like making money out of a downturn, are the parts which are most accurate.

In the hippy commune, the attempts to explain the role of marriage - or the "pastry arky of the domestos fear" - to young children are a salutary warning about fitting your language to your audience.

Marina Lewycka does not spare anybody, left or right, from her comic ridicule. This is a thoroughly good read.

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Article dated 4 July 2012

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