Claire Fuller gave me PTSD at the very outset of this book as Neffy went into a vaccine trial to combat a pandemic. When virus mutates rapidly (cue more PTSD), and Neffy wakes up from fighting off the virus with the experimental vaccine, the world is gone. But there are other people trapped with her in the medical building, and this is the heart of the story: how they relate to and end up relying on one and other. It's a novel about the human condition during a crisis, but Claire Fuller also looks at the trip Neffy took to get to this point. The future is a frightening place, but we can't live in the past.— Jason Kennedy
A mesmerizing book that, in our COVID world, hits uncomfortably close to home. Set in London during a deadly pandemic for which the world is unprepared, Neffy, a disgraced marine biologist, has volunteered for an experimental vaccine trial. When the staff and most of the other volunteers flee the hospital, Neffy is one of five remaining and the only one of the five who received the vaccine. Cut off from society and left to fend for themselves, these strangers are forced to rely on each other to survive. In part a meditation on choices made in order to survive, this is also very much Neffy's story, with chapters dedicated to her life as a marine biologist, her fascination with octopuses, and her complicated family relationships.— Kathy Herbst
A Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, Gizmodo, Shondaland, LitHub & Tor.com Best Book of Summer and Good Housekeeping Best Book of 2023 So Far!
“A haunting novel of second chances.”—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
From the award-winning author of Our Endless Numbered Days, Swimming Lessons, Bitter Orange, and Unsettled Ground comes a beautiful and searing novel of memory, love, survival—and octopuses.
In the face of a pandemic, an unprepared world scrambles to escape the mysterious disease causing sensory damage, nerve loss, and, in most cases, death. Neffy, a disgraced and desperately indebted twenty-seven-year-old marine biologist, registers for an experimental vaccine trial in London—perhaps humanity’s last hope for a cure. Though isolated from the chaos outside, she and the other volunteers—Rachel, Leon, Yahiko, and Piper—cannot hide from the mistakes that led them there.
As London descends into chaos outside the hospital windows, Neffy befriends Leon, who before the pandemic had been working on a controversial technology that allows users to revisit their memories. She withdraws into projections of her past—a childhood bisected by divorce, a recent love affair, her obsessive research with octopuses, and the one mistake that ended her career. The lines between past, present, and future begin to blur, and Neffy is left with defining questions: Who can she trust? Why can’t she forgive herself? How should she live, if she survives?
Claire Fuller’s The Memory of Animals is an ambitious, deeply imagined work of survival and suspense, grief and hope, consequences and connectedness that asks what truly defines us—and to what lengths we will go to rescue ourselves and those we love.
About the Author
Claire Fuller is the author of Our Endless Numbered Days, which won the Desmond Elliott Prize; Swimming Lessons; Bitter Orange; and Unsettled Ground, which won the Costa Novel Award and was a finalist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. She has an MA in Creative and Critical Writing from the University of Winchester and lives in Hampshire with her husband.
A book of survival, consequences and connection.
— The Boston Globe, A Best Book of Summer
Imagine a ‘Lord of the Flies’ where everyone on the island has opted in; or a ‘Breakfast Club’ where anyone who leaves dies. . . . It’s a neat trick that Fuller pulls off, weaving together so many familiar threads, from the post-pandemic storyline to the extremity-in-isolation scenario to the life story reconceived under duress, and yet coming up with a new and promising pattern—an authorial performance in keeping with her generous character.
— The Washington Post
A haunting novel of second chances.
— Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
No mere survival story, the novel explores the isolation and grief that comes with outliving the people with whom you have unfinished business.
— The Philadelphia Inquirer, A Best Book of June
Brings to mind Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven and Sequoia Nagamatsu’s How High We Go in the Dark.
— LitHub, A Best SciFi & Fantasy Book of June
A thrilling departure from our reality.
— Good Housekeeping
Fuller excels in examining the everyday moments at the heart of a life. . . . A memorable meditation on how the human struggle to survive in captivity is not so different than that of our animal kin.
— Kirkus Reviews
Makes us ponder what we owe each other as humans.
A fascinating and suspenseful story of shame, penance, and survival.
The Memory of Animals has done the impossible—made me eagerly anticipate a novel that involves a pandemic in the year 2023. It's also got: experimental technology that allows users to revisit their memories, marine biology, and promises to be an immersive, thought-provoking, and haunting-in-a-good-way literary masterwork.
Infused with both surprise and recognition, The Memory of Animals looks at the impossible choices sometimes required for survival.
— Electric Literature, Best Small Press Books of Summer
Stunning. . . . Sobering and evocative, The Memory of Animals is a novel about who we choose to be when the lights go out.
— Foreword Reviews, Starred Review
When Fuller releases something, you should probably pay attention. This dystopia is giving off thriller vibes with its pandemic reality, the complications of squid, and survival.
— Independent Book Review
Compelling. . . . Riveting. . . . long-time Fuller readers will relish this completely engrossing story, which questions what we value most.
— Library Journal, Starred Review
An unsettling search for survival.
Stands out in the new wave of pandemic literature in the ways it captures the emotional toll of isolation.. . . Fuller has created a heartwarming portrait of what it means to find hope at the end of the world and carry on, not only for those you lost, but for those you found in the aftermath.
— West Trade Review
Brisk, lucid…. The Memory of Animals is at its most powerful when it functions like a kind of Covid Revisitor for readers, evoking subtler memories of uncertainty, freedom, and enclosure—of trying, when all else is stripped away, to figure out what we owe one another.
— Southern Humanities Review
A layered and smart narrative. . . . Ms. Fuller wisely foreshadows while also leaving readers guessing when the other shoe will drop.
— The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
An imaginative blend of science and spirit. . . . Claire Fuller has siphoned all of the beauty of being human into this work.
— Arkansas International
Between wanting to do the right thing and the vortex of mistakes from the past there is a real place, one woven from danger and desire. Claire Fuller’s riveting novel, The Memory of Animals, creates a world within a world where a young woman marine biologist faces off with a global pandemic and the hopes for a vaccine by diving into her own past. She might retrieve some fragment that could secure self-preservation as well as—if not humanity, then at least the human heart.
— Lidia Yuknavitch, author of Thrust
Claire Fuller is my favorite storyteller. I read The Memory of Animals in one sitting, swept up by the thriller-like pace and the sheer joy of reading a great story. Yet, in the book’s aftermath, I was haunted by Neffy’s fumbling humanity in the face of loss and fear, and how courage isn’t always obvious—even to those who find it. Fuller’s books come in at the eyes, but they settle right behind the heart.
— Melanie Finn, author of The Hare
Claire Fuller is such an interesting and original writer and takes on complex themes with such a cool, clear eye. In The Memory of Animals she has produced another literary page-turner. The collision between altruism and the survival instinct at the heart of the book is brilliantly dramatized and her disturbing vision of post-pandemic moral collapse is compulsive and thoroughly convincing. Terrific!
— Clare Chambers, author of Small Pleasures
Haunting and unsettling, moving and thoughtful—with horror lurking at the edges—this is a subtle, elegant novel, an interesting and unusual take on the meaning of pandemic. Claire Fuller is a huge talent.
— Lucy Atkins, author of Windmill Hill
Claire Fuller is a fascinating writer, and The Memory of Animals is further evidence of her powers. Her story is one of survival, but her subject is humanity itself. With immense skill, she shines a light on the dark heart of our existence—the beauty and brutality of human behavior. An unforgettable novel.
— Kathleen MacMahon, author of The Home Scar
Full of jeopardy and strangeness, but also laced with Fuller's trademark generosity and compassion, a startling and satisfying book.
— Julie Myerson, author of Nonfiction