The protagonist of Felice Fallon’s debut novel, Interviews with an Ape, is a gorilla named Einstein who has learned sign language after being taken from his family by poachers. The book follows him and a menagerie of other animals: a despairing sow, a frightened elephant calf, an indignant foxhound and a vengeful orca, as well as the humans who are bound up in their lives.
The animals describe their pain and fear in distinctly human terms: ‘Each of us confined for life in a six-by-two-foot metal enclosure,’ says the sow. ‘Imagine that. Go ahead. I’d like to see you try.’ In part one, Fallon seems to be doing something children’s books have been doing for many years, contrasting distressing testimony with a fable-like tone. This works to good effect in the voices of the animals: Major, the foxhound, starts off with the convoluted syntax and pomposity of a Mr Toad type, but we witness his confidence slipping away when he is taken from his beloved master and