BookBrowse Reviews Night of the Animals by Bill Broun

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Night of the Animals

by Bill Broun

Night of the Animals by Bill Broun X
Night of the Animals by Bill Broun
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jul 2016, 560 pages
    Apr 2017, 592 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Rory L. Aronsky
Buy This Book

About this Book



In this imaginative debut, the tale of Noah's Ark is brilliantly recast as a story of fate and family, set in a near-future London.

Debut novelist Bill Broun is a gentle, exquisite literary surgeon. His protagonist, 90-year-old homeless Cuthbert Handley has a manic plan to free all of the animals in the London Zoo. But what about the world around him – and what about his past?

Despite Night of the Animals being written well before Britain's momentous decision to leave the European Union, Broun poignantly causes the reader to wonder if the 2052 England in his novel could actually happen. King Henry IX, formerly known as Prince Harry, rules England darkly after the mysterious deaths of King William and his heirs. Prime ministers have become figureheads, and Parliament does whatever the king commands. Surveillance has become much more rampant, the Beefeaters of Buckingham Palace are now a deadly force, and social media has become enormously invasive, with advertisements, for example, freely flitting across one's corneas.

Also in England – and around the world – are suicide cults, like the return of Heaven's Gate, which have thousands upon thousands of members. They seek not only to kill themselves in pursuit of passage on the Urga-Rampos comet, but animals as well, because they don't want the souls of animals to get preferential treatment. In Los Angeles, Heaven's Gate has done just that; they've killed countless animals before 60,000 to 70,000 members killed themselves. The London Zoo has become the last zoo left on the planet.

Broun does not judge Cuthbert, or his mission, or the shocking state of England and the world. Instead, he quietly peels back layers of Cuthbert's past, revealing madness and hallucinations stemming from a horrifying, viciously abusive childhood at the hands of his father. It was bad enough when it was he and his beloved brother, Drystan, but made worse after Drystan accidentally drowned in a fast-moving tributary while his fractured family and his mystical-minded grandmother visited an ancestral home on his father's side of the family. Between that and his grandmother's insistence that Cuthbert possessed the "Wonderments" – the ability to talk to animals and, most importantly, hear them – his mental state broke down, hastened by his addiction to Flot, which far outshines alcohol in its addictive properties. Now Cuthbert believes that, by breaking into the London Zoo and freeing all the animals, he may save England. Things may change. He might find Drystan. Think of him as a futuristic Don Quixote, but in a worse state of mind. Through his deeply thoughtful and poetic encounters with penguins, jackals, sand cats and others, we get a complex, fascinating gumbo of different myths that each animal group fervently believes, all apparently seen through Cuthbert's vast hallucinations. But in this case, does it matter if it's real or not? Considering the grim, collapsing state of this particular world, it's actually a relief; a dim, yet visible beacon of hope that perhaps society won't totally plunge into darkness.

Night of the Animals is the kind of world you hope will never happen, but it's one to think about, and one that makes you think of the world we actually do live in now. Can we do better than this? Can we get to a place where we can erase these damning possibilities? Can Prince Harry just stay cool? Moreover, it shows us that there can be some beauty in a dark world, and that is its greatest gift.

Reviewed by Rory L. Aronsky

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in September 2016, and has been updated for the April 2017 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Zoos of the Future

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Join Now!

Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: We Are Not Free
    We Are Not Free
    by Traci Chee
    Author Traci Chee is best known for her young adult fantasy trilogy, The Reader series. We Are Not ...
  • Book Jacket: The Standardization of Demoralization Procedures
    The Standardization of Demoralization Procedures
    by Jennifer Hofmann
    The title of Jennifer Hofmann's perceptive debut novel with its bureaucratese strongly suggests a ...
  • Book Jacket: His Only Wife
    His Only Wife
    by Peace Adzo Medie
    21-year-old Afi is a talented Ghanaian seamstress eager to study fashion design, but her life is ...
  • Book Jacket: We Have Been Harmonized
    We Have Been Harmonized
    by Kai Strittmatter
    You'd be forgiven if, while reading We Have Been Harmonized, you momentarily mistook it for a ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    by Susanna Clarke

    A new novel from the NY Times bestselling author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
Find Me
by André Aciman

The author of the worldwide bestseller Call Me by Your Name revisits its complex and beguiling characters.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Memorial Drive

Memorial Drive
by Natasha Trethewey

The moving, intimate story of a poet coming into her own in the wake of tragedy.



Solve this clue:

L N Take I C

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.