The book resembles a transatlantic Bridget Jones' Diary and may have the same appeal. The obsessive list-making narrator Jane Goodall is a drinking, smoking, attractive thirtysomething careerwoman who spends her evenings reading back copies of the New Yorker and eating take-out moo- shu vegetables. Then, to adopt Zigman's style: [ENTER Bull] Ray, who is tall, dark and handsome with a washboard stomach to die for [MATING SCENE DELETED].
Mannerisms like this screenplay use of capitals within square brackets distract from the main strengths of the book. Zigman is good on basic human needs and failings. She conjures the headiness of a new relationship and the pain of being dumped when no reason is given. "It's like random violence. All you want to know is what the victim did to bring on the attack so you can prevent it next time."
The apparent arbitrariness of Ray's decision to "end it between them" pushes Jane to move in with womaniser Eddie and devote her evenings to her quasi-scientific investigation. Whether the intention behind it is partly serious or wholly ironic, the New Cow-Old Cow theory falls down because it's neither as insightful nor as funny as it's meant to be. But once the central relationship is over, the narrator's on-going research does keep us deep in Zigman's New York, a place evoked so specifically that we come away knowing the cost of a chicken and lima bean dinner.
In this chic, bohemian vision of the Big Apple, roommates flit between star-spotting at Elaine's, exchanging personal recovery programmes in sunken living rooms, and slumming it in after-hours dives where glasses of Jack Daniels are already sliding along the bar before they've been ordered. Zigman's characterisation is hearty. The narrator's best friends, Joan and David, are good foils with nice lines in pithy phrases ("Time wounds all heels"). With the exception of Mia, Ray's soon to be ex-Current Cow and a vegan Rape Crisis Counsellor, the villains are sympathetically presented. Of Eddie, prize Bull, prime research subject, the narrator explains: "I saw the dark tunnel of Eddie's loneliness [and] knew that the women who came and went from his life only passed by it without entering."
Animal Husbandry will hit nerves with its blithely non-feminist world view. It will engage those who'd like to laugh at incurable romantics but have themselves suffered the symptoms.Reuse content