Various Pets Alive and Dead

A post by Margot.

My third pick on the bingo board was humour genre and I chose Marina Lewycka’s    ‘Various pets alive and dead’.

I have read her first book ‘ A short history of tractors in Ukranian’ and loved it and this one is no less inventive and a good read. The story revolves around a family who lived in a commune in Doncaster for 30 odd years. It’s narrated by most of the family members in turn and follows them as they embark on rather different lifestyles along with various pets.  The son’s foray into the world of venture capitalism, the stock market and city traders is funny and fascinating and would horrify his parents if they knew. His sister is a teacher and lives in a spotless, minimalist new flat. The younger sister, who has Down’s syndrome, wants to leave home and fend for herself.

I like Lewycka’s writing and judging from the acknowledgements at the back of the book,  it was well researched.

Nicole hunts for Wilderpeople

OK! Off to a better start this time, after my first Book Bingo book failed to get off the ground. This week, for the comedy square on my bingo board, I read Barry Crump’s Wild Pork and Watercress. If the title doesn’t ring a bell, the film version’s title might: this is the book Hunt for the Wilderpeople is based on.

I used to read a lot of Barry Crump, but over time the stories and characters have all blurred together. I couldn’t say now if I’ve read Wild Pork and Watercress before or not. I have, however, seen Hunt for the Wilderpeople quite recently. I absolutely loved the film.

Both the movie and the book follow Ricky Baker, a teenage boy with a bad reputation. Social Services send him off to live with his Aunt Bella and Uncle Hec (his foster family in the film; his literal aunt and uncle in the book). After tragedy strikes, Ricky is scared he will be removed from his idyllic new life on the farm and sent back into the clutches of the Child Welfare system. Ricky decides to ‘go bush’ with Uncle Hec, spending months living off the land while evading the police.

Most people prefer to read a book before they see its film adaptation. I’m usually only in this boat for books I’m particularly interested in reading – I don’t mind seeing the movie first and coming back to the book, if it was the movie that piqued my interest first. In my case, I’m a big Taika Waititi fan, so I watched Hunt for the Wilderpeople long before it occurred to me to read Wild Pork and Watercress.

Having read the book, I’m pleased I did it this way around. There were a couple of plot points I felt were handled better in the movie (I’m thinking particularly of Aunt Bella’s plot line, and the use of the Child Welfare lady as an antagonist). I also think when the book’s epilogue turned out differently from the film’s ending, I was genuinely more surprised than I would have been if I’d encountered them the other way around. There were a few parts of the book I wished were in the movie, though; the Bird-Lady, who once mentored Uncle Hec in bush survival skills the same way Hec mentors Ricky, was a great addition to the story. Overall, I enjoyed this little slice of classic Kiwi storytelling.