The Animators | Review

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Words || Nikita Jones

According to the blurb and most online reviews, this is a novel about creative friendship. But that’s rather simplifying it. It’s about family, it’s about work, it’s about very terrible health choices. It’s about Sharon and her friend Mel and the animated films that they make about their lives.

The story eases its way in, and when I say ‘eases’, I mean at a glacial pace. A good third of the novel is exposition and stilted character development. It may sound clumsy, but it feels like a warmup, like treading water, running on the spot, like a slow slog to the starting line. It would be easy to give up in the beginning of the novel, but there’s certainly an undercurrent to these first few pages, a sense of what’s to come. And when the gun goes off, the story picks up enough pace to give the reader vertigo. It can’t hold this pace, for sure, but from then on it doesn’t really need to.

This book is a perfect reconstruction of the creative process. I mean that as neither a compliment nor a criticism, just a statement of fact. The slow start, bogged down by rehashes of past projects and retrospective dwelling, echoes the feeling of creative stagnancy almost flawlessly. Then comes the moment of creative impetus, the turning point from which the novel gains a sense of purpose and direction. Following this, sometimes the momentum falls and sometimes it picks back up, but there’s this push towards the ending. It’s either a slow grind or a rapid gallop but it moves and breathes.

At many points, this novel feels like hard work and thematically, it seems like a juggling game, never really landing on anything concrete. But it’s raw and compelling, and if you manage to get halfway through, you won’t be able to stop.