Only the Animals by Ceridwen Dovey review – of mussels and men

This collection of stories about animals caught up in human wars is witty and unsentimental

Although the animal protagonists of these 10 stories find themselves caught in human conflicts, Dovey is at no risk of succumbing to the sentimentality or moralising to which her enterprise could have fallen prey. Somewhere Along the Line the Pearl Would be Handed to Me is, for instance, frequently hilarious; a homage to On the Road which sees its molluscular hero hitching a ride to Pearl Harbor on the hull of a battleship as he avoids putting down threads and gathering algae.

The dolphin narrator of A Letter to Sylvia Plath, meanwhile, offers an account not just of her US navy service but a damning feminist critique of Ted Hughes: “Human women need no reminder that they’re animals. So why do your men keep shouting it from the rooftops as if they’ve discovered how to ...

We Don’t Know What We’re Doing by Thomas Morris review – an assured debut

The denizens of Caerphilly bounce from one crisis to the next in an entertaining collection of short stories

Caerphilly is itself a character in Thomas Morris’s debut collection of stories: its castle, shopping centre and Big Cheese fair. The latter is the setting for a date between pensioners in the sweetly entertaining Strange Traffic, while in Castle View, a starting-to-go-to-seed twentysomething reflects on his pristine new estate house, which comes sans advertised vista. Instead, the prospect is of Caerphilly mountain, which – in a quiet masterstroke of quarter-life crisis – he finds brings the words “hump and bald and tired” to mind. A fitness kick duly ensues.

Other highlights include the Dublin stag-do hijinks of the brilliantly judged All the Boys, and Big Pit, in which the narrator’s sister is revealed to be as unstable as the gases that slowly gather in a coalmine. If Morris’s protagonists are messily muddling through, it is ...