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Dark & relentless: We Love Books reviews The Zoo

James is struggling, both with the moral implications of working in corporate advertising and with the darker side of his fragile mental health.

The story is split into two parts, hopping back and forth between James struggling to keep his addictions at bay while holding down a soulless advertising job as well as keeping a hold of his fractured family - and later, as he recovers from the disastrous results of his actions in a psychiatric ward, hounded by hallucinations that plague him from '"the zoo", a set of menacing figurines he obsesses over, shrouded in meaning.

During the day James travels between client meetings to champagne bars but while at home he ignores the difficult questions from his wife and the touching affection of his child. As he continues to spiral out of control, he begins to realise he can only remain ignorant for so long and the consequences of his behaviour, both in work and at home, prove so devastating that his world fractures into stark and lonely reality and the frightening nightmare world of the zoo. Before long he is hunted by ghosts of mutilated children and plagued by phantom messages that reveal the truth he's too terrified to confront.

The Zoo is dark and relentless in its bleak portrayal of modern day consumerism and the effects we all ignore. At times the sentiment is slightly heavy-handed and the situations contrived but following James as he rockets towards total destruction is gripping - in particular as he navigates a life of heavy drinking and corporate greed in tandem with a fragile marriage and delicate relationship with his son. While the symbolism between the mysterious zoo figurines and the responsibility of advertising companies is a bit far reaching, the more humane story of a man losing his grip with himself and the implications it has on his loved ones is a story worth reading.

Jamie Mollart

Jamie Mollart