The Animals by Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy

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The Animals by Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe
Summary: A collection of the love letters between the author Christopher Isherwood and the artist Don Bachardy, 'The Animals' not only serves as a powerful look at a lifelong romance, but also paints a brilliant picture of the kind of lives Isherwood, Bachardy and their various famous friends were leading in the 60's and 70's
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 528 Date: September 2014
Publisher: Vintage Books
ISBN: 9781784700829

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Christopher Isherwood is a writer whose work was often (in fact nearly always) biographical, and one who was always very open about his personal life. Interest in the life of Isherwood seems to have been rife recently, with a film about Isherwood and Bachardy released in 2008, an adaptation of Isherwood's book 'A Single Man' released in 2009, and a BBC adaptation of 'Christopher and his Kind' released in 2011, as well as the seemingly countless revivals of 'Cabaret'.

This book capitalises on the popularity, but does not cheapen Isherwood in the slightest. In fact, it serves as a touching and moving account of two lives that became completely entwined.

Bachardy and Isherwood met in 1952 - Isherwood a man of 48, and Bachardy just 18. The two fell in love, and this book charts their relationship through affairs, rows, huge amounts of time spent apart, and ends in 1970, sixteen years before Isherwood's death.

This isn't a rose tinted look at the romance by any means. Both Isherwood and Bachardy had affairs, and the men often spent months on end at the other end of the world from each other. A deep affection is clear in every letter though, and whilst the pet names the men have for each other are fairly saccharin (Dobbin and Kitty), the letters themselves tend to avoid plunging too deep into sentimentality.

Isherwood and Bachardy mixed in fascinating circles too - Cecil Beaton, David Hockney, John Gielgud, Gore Vidal, E.M Forster, Tenessee Williams, Vanessa Redgrave, Somerset Maugham, Truman Capote are all mentioned, as of course is W.H Auden - an old friend of Isherwood's. It paints a fascinating picture of life in Hollywood at that time, and the letters pull no punches - gossip and bitching occur frequently, and with a biting wit too.

Anyone who has enjoyed Isherwood should read this - his writing is just as brilliant in letter form. And Bachardy, a wonderfully talented artist, also writes exceptionally well. Above all that though, this is a book for romantics. Isherwood and Bachardy make for a fantastic love story - if you want proof that love can be long lasting and endure through pretty much anything, then read 'The Animals' for proof.

A huge thanks to Vintage Books for the copy.

As you may have guessed, I'm a huge Isherwood fan. Diaries Volume 1 gives us Isherwood from around the time of his emigration to America, until six or so years after his meeting with Bachardy. It's a huge book, but often a fun read and as per the letters, paints an excellent picture of America during that period.

In the mid 1960's, Isherwood and Bachardy were going through somewhat of a difficult patch, with Bachardy rebelling and trying to figure out if he wanted to be single again. Isherwood, full of doubts himself and fearful for the future of the relationship, tried to imagine what his life would be like if Bachardy died. The result is A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood, easily one of my favourite books.

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Buy The Animals by Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Animals by Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy at


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