The Dreams of Zoo Animals

Valmai Howe, Author St. Martin's Press $15.95 (226p) ISBN 978-0-312-02908-1
This first novel by Australian Howe ( The Rights of the Pregnant Parent ; The Birth Report ) was nominated for the Canadian Book Award. (Howe now lives in Montreal and Vermont.) It's a powerful coming-of-age story, expertly crafted and fascinating in its details, and the narrative voice of Sarah Ashton is both haunting and convincing. The daughter of a fanatical Communist organizer and a defeated mother, Sarah is a strong-willed girl determined to wrest control of her own life from her father's unreasonable grasp. Howe deals effectively with the themes of growing up, female friendship, first love and finding an identity amidst chaos. The Melbourne setting is both familiar and exotic, and Sarah's studies in physiotherapy, imposed by her father, provide metaphorical details about strength and control. Burdened perhaps by an allegiance to autobiographical detail and circumstance, this is nevertheless an enchanting novel, animated by Howe's scrupulously attuned eye and ear. One looks forward to her future work as she hones her impressive talents. (May)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1987
Release date: 01/01/1987
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