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In a huge, dark forest somewhere in the north, a round, rather simple hedgehog called Pork emerges from a pile of leaves in the night… and sets in motion this powerful – and unusual – collection of animal stories for adults.

There is mystery and terror in the great woodland, and there is love. It is a world where fear and death and the survival of the fittest are the pitiless underlying themes. Though they are loosely linked, the stories are written to be read as separate tales, usually with a single main character: an ugly, love-lost squirrel, a wantonly savage stoat, a bat, a veteran hare running before the hounds. They are suspense thrillers or romantic interludes, pure adventure narratives, even horror stories; they all draw us deep into the stern forest through the elements we share with the animals – cold and dark, rain and sun, suspicion, loyalty, the need for warmth and the safety of shelter – above all, the feeling that, even in a world where death is inevitable, there is always enough to make life worth living.

The style is clear, straightforward, often very simple, but there is passion as well as knowledge in the book. It brings the wild creates fiercely to life, in a disturbing way, with menace and unease – but vividly, in a literary debut of great imaginative strength.



Somewhere in the damp deciduous north there was a forest like any other, a place where the animals could walk and talk and sometimes die, and wake up too soon during hibernation …



“There continue to be writers who follow their own imaginative paths. Such a writer is Cris Freddi, young British author of Pork and Others, a flawlessly written collection of short stories in which forest animals are the only characters, often speaking to each other as eloquently as humans, while they struggle with the dangerous conditions of their world. We see through the eyes of these animals, and Freddi’s skill is such that we never doubt their reality, be they snakes or dormice, bats or otters, birds or deer. But at the same time, these characters aren’t animals at all. They are heroes, lovers, monsters and murderers, their battle with death so relentless and fraught with treachery that it transcends the mere struggle for survival. These characters fascinate, sometimes frighten, frequently compel. When Old Common, the hare, sees the hunting dogs are almost upon him, we feel his terror, his near despair: ‘For the first time he realised just how much his death meant to these dogs – and to their owner. Could they really hate him so much? For the first time, he had no plans, no strategy left. He’d tried everything, and yet here they were, coming over to end his life.‘ Some of the most powerful moments in the book are those in which animals, after polite conversation, are suddenly locked in a death struggle as one commences to make a victim of the other, sometimes out of hunger, sometimes out of sheer will. This shift from civilized comrade to predator has an eerie erotic feel. Sometimes the stories bewilder; sometimes they disturb. Frequently, they are exciting, wonderfully suspenseful, and always they enthrall. Their complexity defies the all too predictable probe for allegory. The work as a whole is darkly lustrous, beautifully written, rich. It is a collection of finely wrought stories, and Freddi’s imagination is so special and so powerful, his writing so clean and masterly that we are left quite impressed, quite satisfied, and wanting more of his work.” – Anne Rice, San Francisco Chronicle

Pork is just what I thought (and hoped) it would be. I wish I could have written something like this – but I didn’t, and now I’m sure I can’t. These aren’t parables, though the psychological resonance of waking too soon, of having a trick of the blood interrupt the peace and safety of a winter’s hibernation, reminds me of something frightening and essential in the human condition – though what it is, I can’t quite say. That’s part of the remarkable control and wit of Pork – just when you think Cris Freddi is about to forge the link between his creatures of the forest and we bipeds with books, he submerges his story deeper into the leaf and muck and weather of the forest. He has turned Marianne Moore’s definition of poetry on its head: he’s given us a real garden with imaginary toads in it. Though even the toads are not imaginary; the animals here are not so much made up but observed, penetrated, and given voices. In most stories about animals, when we close the book and see one of the animals in reality, part of us wishes they were like the animals in the book, with that wit, feeling, destiny. But after reading Pork, when we see a hedgehog or a mouse we can safely feel that creature is just like the one we read about. Porkproves yet again the uniqueness of the art of fiction: Cris Freddi has made up a universe of his own in order to brilliantly illuminate the one we all share.” - Scott Spencer, author of Endless Love

“Astounding…it makes you feel as if he really knows animals. The writing is clear, simple, it has perfect lucidity…Incredibly sensitive, a totally unsentimental insight into animals, which is to say that one believes every word of it.” – Alice Adams

“I have been trying to avoid writing any blurbs – but Pork is quite extraordinary. Pork and Others goes beyond nature-writing into fiction, but it doesn’t falsify the wild creatures of burrow, thicket, or eyrie who are its characters. If Mr. Freddi’s animals talk, their speech seems a true issue of their concerns and fates; we are made to see the savage forest world through their eyes, and to share that animal awareness which is so fearfully keen within its fearful limits. An imaginative coup.” – Richard Wilbur

“Animals are the characters in this strange but oddly captivating collection of stories. Freddi examines the lives of denizens of the forest, but he does so without patronizing cuteness or whimsey. In these 11 tales nature is randomly cruel, bloodshed and death are omnipresent. A stoat kills a crow and a family of badgers before being itself attacked by a huge pike which has demolished a shoal of roach; the killers finish each other off. Freddi’s remarkable achievement is to convey the personalities of the various creatures in an unsentimental, straightforward manner, through their speech and through the instinctive behaviour characteristic of each species. Although we never forget we are reading about animals, the stories take on other dimensions as well: one is a classic suspense mystery, another has the theme of a Greek tragedy, some are exciting adventure narratives…Freddi’s curious imagination, meticulous observation and empathetic insight make him an author to watch.” – Publishers Weekly

Pork, by Cris Freddi, is a very good book. So careful is Freddi’s eye in surveying his northern swatch of nature; so particular his words in describing its forests, soils, and mountains, all constitutions of weather and seasons, all sensate responses to growth, color, odors and decay; so content his mood with the laws that cause both life and death…Porkis not fantasy. It is deadly realistic…Half the skill and most of the entertainment of this book is that its characters are sharply drawn personalities. There’s Vim, a go-lucky little vole whose moments apart from a nagging wife are cherished as much as beer in a bar; Redge, an elderly bat with a cunning mind and the grace to grieve when his strategies kill…there’s a badger concerned that he not be blamed for crimes not his, a stoat of frightful dumb brutality, a wren-mother of the most selfless, desperate and sacrificial love. That this book is not oppressively morbid is its triumph…such humor, such tiny, sharply etched gestures of caring, of hope, of sweet premeditation, assure the reader that, though death may rule at its parameters, life after all is an opportunity, and each being has some say in how might be lived.” – Walter Wangerin JnrWashington Post

I found the Philistines Pooh and Piglet all-time bores, and as for The Wind in the Willows and Toad in his check suit lazing away the afternoon in his armchair – Yuk! And those dreadful bunnies in Watership Down. I’ll only say they are nothing but English schoolboys in fur costumes. All of which is cautionary. The book under consideration today is about animals who live in a small patch of English forest…The creatures in Pork do not wear clothes. Their lives are dangerous, and in many cases short. The world they inhabit is one of cruelty, hunger and death… You would not be able to say this is a bedtime book for the smalls of this world… Pork is a hedgehog. Scuttling and rolling through the forest, he encounters a squirrel named Reek, fights two evil badgers (thank you, Kenneth Grahame), and gets nothing for his pains. Cris Freddi, a talented and faintly menacing young writer, terrorized me with this story and even brought a drop of glycerine to the eye. There are two cannibals. A predatory old owl who traps younger ones, and a stoat who even ate his mother. This “Na” is so horrifying that you are pleased, as is the forest population, at his demise… Gob is a cuckoo raised by a busy little wren who thinks he is hers – a morality fable. Does it bother you that a white mouse is called Cheesewire and says to himself, “Well, Cheesy boy, this is where the funs starts.”? Then keep away. Vermin at play. On the other hand you’d be missing something. Something oddball but something wondrously strange.” – Boston Globe

“Fascinating as someone else’s nightmare…The book of related tales defies analogy on several levels, first because it is neither a novel nor a collection of stories…The edgy, uncomfortable feeling this book gives one has a positive flip side in a weird spellbinding quality, much the same quality that forces drivers to examine squashed animals on the road as they cruise by. The chattiness of the characters, set off by their lurking murderousness, creeps up until the wary reader can trust no character. Manhattan is a picnic compared to the paranoia engendered in this forest. Freddi’s literary debut is wondrous in its own way, and affectingly terrifying, and above all, strange. Do not read it while eating dinner.” – Los Angeles Herald Examiner

“Animals move through a forest that is honorably conveyed in its intricacy as in its scale. Simple passages of precise description move these stories like a current, and lead us unsuspecting to the rapids of plot…Each story pulses with the anticipation of violence, and the attacks are as artfully staged as anything in Jack London…Freddi skirts most of the cliches about woodland creatures, and therefore keeps these tales from settling into the transcendental seagull groove. His animals have tangible feelings and loyalties, a finely honed social sense…It is Golding cum Tolkien, with a dash or Darwin and not a trace of Blake.” – The Village Voice

“This bonny broth of a book – the first novel of an Englishman still in his mid-20s – is a triumph of storytelling. Well constructed, it moves beautifully in realistically portraying woodland animals…Mon, the owl, too old to fly but smart enough to manage a meal. Reek, the hideously ugly young squirrel who finds love, Old Common the antiquated hare. Cheesewire the forest freak, the only mouse in the word with a squint…Freddi is in the line of the great English nature writers. Even his inconsequential lines are elegant: ‘Somewhere in a warm and sweating summer night, there was a sycamore tree with no branches.’ He observes nature more than he imagines it…this is not Babar, Bambi, the Velveteen Rabbit, and Stuart Little with their human attributes, friends and trousers. Nor Orwell’s Animal Farm ideologues. The nearest thing to its unsentimental animalness is Richard Jefferies’ Wood Magic and Henry Williamson’s Tarka the Otter…though he portrays his animals accurately according to kind, he does something else infinitely as important. In this small classic, he tells, swaggering humans a staggering thing: that all nature is one. Not, mind you, symmetrical or fair, but simply one.” – Robert W Smith, Plain Dealer

“This collection is announced as a first novel, since not only do the animals reappear in successive tales but the final story closes with a dramatic, joyous victory for all the inhabitants of that patch of forest. A reader can become caught up in the lives of these foolish, vain, yet captivating creatures.” – Booklist

“A bit of fantasy helps lighten these often bleak and sometimes violent tales in which forest creatures exhibit less savory human attributes (including foul language). Definitely not for readers of lightweight animal stories, but suitable for mature fiction readers as compelling and thought-provoking fare.” – AR Booklist

“The English writer Cris Freddi has created a gallery of believable animal characters who, though they speak in the language of human beings, express themselves as wild creatures might do, The reader puts down the volume believing that he has seen the forest as the animals see it. These stories are cleverly imagined and beautifully realized…it is impossible not to admire the writer’s talent. Even readers immune to the allure of Watership Down and Jonathan Livingstone Seagull will be impressed by the skill reflected in these brilliant, unsentimental tales.” – Newsday

“All of these animals have names, talk to one another, and yet remain true to the exigencies of the wild. They eat and are eaten, attempt to protect their young, and do what they must do to survive. Freddi writes in a simple, understated, and pleasantly unpredictable manner. He freely stretches credibility when it serves his purpose, but is faithful enough to nature to remind us that life in the wild can be brutal and grotesque…those wanting an unusual fantasy will find this author’s first book nicely done.” – Library Journal

“Those who are tired of those namby-pamby fairy tale animal stories with consistently unrealistic happy endings should sneak Cris Freddi’s new book into their home libraries…the first story of the collection is about a hedgehog called Pork: ‘It was still very cold and there was rain in the air  when round Pork pushed his snout out from under the leaves. It was well into autumn and the leaves were wet, fresh-smelling, Pork frowned. Too soon, he said to himself. Waking up too soon with everything still all wet and cold. Very strange. He took a couple of steps forward, scratched at the damp forest floor and sniffed. Too soon. Too wet. He sniffed again and shambled off into the night.‘ Sounds like your typical animal story so far, doesn’t it? Then, WHAM! The conclusion of the story, after Pork’s curiosity has led him onto a paved road…Freddi is English, Oxford-educated, lives in London, And young. The jacket on the book tells nothing more of his background, but it should. One can’t help wondering what kind of childhood Freddi must have had to be able to write these stories. Perhaps if you had a big pot wherein you could melt together some Beatrix Potter and some Roald Dahl, with a little Alfred Hitchcock, you might brew up something similar to a Freddi story. Life and death. The survival of the fittest and the triumphs of the most cunning. The meek and the mild and the freaks of the world. In one story Freddi tells about an old owl who can longer hunt for food so he becomes a cannibal. Another of the tales concerns some intricate interplay between an old bat and an old otter friend. Vengeance is the theme here, but it is no simple cut-and-dried human variety of an eye for an eye. It is a tale so full of complexities and shadings and symbols that college freshmen English classes could spend a big part of a semester digesting and dissecting it. Then there is the love-hate relationship between a “soft plump dormouse” and an old, partially paralyzed adder. She depends on him for protection and he depends on her for food. The tale ends logically, after Freddi weaves a thread of Oedipus tragedy into it, but it isn’t necessarily a predictable ending, Each of the stories stands alone, but since many of them occur in the same forest, some of the characters crop up in secondary tales of other characters. When that happens, it’s like recognizing an old friend. This book is easy reading but invites a lot of hard pondering. And it leaves one wondering about and looking forward to what this young writer will create next.” – Dallas Times Herald

“What a strange, interesting book this is. We see that these animals aren’t bedtime companions, but beings who kill – and not always for food…Pork plays with ways of narration, from simple adventure stories to a mystery tale. In “Redge,” an ageing bat meets and old friend Kayak the otter, and the two exchange banter in one of the funniest sections of the book. But even here, the writer tricks us, with the humor suddenly showing its deadly side. There’s plenty to wonder at here.” – Kansas City Star

Here’s a strange little book indeed, a mixture of fable, natural history and allegory that recreates an animal world as real as a hare’s death shriek and as mysterious as a wood at midnight. ‘Somewhere in the damp deciduous north,’ writes 26-year-old Londoner Cris Freddi, ‘there was a forest like any other, a place where the animals could walk and talk and sometimes die, and wake up too soon during hibernation…’ One by one, Freddi introduces the creatures of the forest, sometimes telling their stories in one brief, often shocking episode, sometimes allowing them to travel from tale to tale. Pork fits no pattern. It is a troubling, completely fascinating picture of the ways of violence in a world never seen by man.” – Anniston Star

“Pork and Others, a new collection of animal stories, is all wrong. The violence in it is shocking and, to make matters worse, author Cris Freddi writes like a fresh young 26-year-old – which he happens to be. Pork and Others is intelligent but not stuffy, thoughtful but not difficult, familiar but not hackneyed, and passionate but not trashy. Don’t bother to look for messages in Pork; the stories, sentiments, and characters are rewarding enough in themselves. Freddi has seasoned his work with a touch of mysticism that blends into forest life like the sent of blood on a windy night. Mon, the Death Owl, appears only once, but his treacherous, calculating vigilance lasts forever – literally. Freddi’s clean crisp style does justice to these creatures of instinct and passion as no sci-fi metaphysic ever could. Tragedy and cruelty play so considerable a part in the first of Freddi’s stories that when the small joys finally occur, we savor them as much as the animals themselves do. A great co-operative venture climaxes the book…this finale, with its crowd of familiars and upbeat, slightly enigmatic ending, leaves us hungry for more of the likes of Pork.” – UCLA Daily Bruin

“Here is a striking collection of animal stories. A  bold concatenation of naturalist reporting, lyrical transcribing and no-nonsense plotting, replete with brutal deaths in nearly every chapter, Pork and Others relies on only a light touch of anthropomorphizing to confirm character in the animals. Readers will appreciate the smart pacing an the absence of sentimentality. Perhaps the clearest way to express the tone and impact of this book is to guess aloud that Disney will never make an animated film of it.” – School Library Journal

Pork and Others marks the promising literary debut of Oxford educated Cris Freddi. It is a delightful collection of loosely related, anthropomorphic stories, each with an interesting twist. Unlike the acknowledged classics of the animal story genre, Freddi does not use his animals as merely containers to be filled with human properties; his animals are not completely humanized. Here we find no rabbits in trousers, no toads in tuxedoes. What we do find are creatures more convincing, nature-observed, penetrated, and given voices to express their true concerns and sentiments…the compelling realism of life through the eyes of these forest creatures. Here is a book that genuinely holds as much value for the adult as it does for the sophisticated child. Freddi draws us into the lives of animals that are decidedly real, living out their natural lives in the savage beauty of the woodland. Beginning with “Pork,” the story of an introverted and dull-witted but kind-hearted hedgehog, we are drawn into a mesmerizing string of tales. The creatures include Fanulla the vengeful dormouse, Ug the arrogant self-centered toad, and Norris the toothless old fox. Who could resist becoming immersed in the lives of such characters? The stories take on other dimensions. One has the elements of a classic suspense mystery, another has those of a Greek tragedy, still another is a rousing tale of adventure. Yet in none of these stories is it obvious that they have been forced to confirm to any of these standard types. Relax with the comfortable, refreshing simplicity of Pork and Othersand discover what our furry friends are really up to.” – Massachusetts Daily Collegian



These are the most wonderful stories. Reminiscent of Wind in the Willows, Pork is a collection of short stories with animals as the protagonists. It doesn’t pull it’s punches, there is a lot of violence here, but it’s authentic, and the writing is beautiful.” 5★

These short stories are very surreal, I really enjoyed reading them. Animal stories for adults sounds an odd concept but it works really well. They’re exciting, funny, moving – you name it!” 5★

I read this book when I was 12 when it first came out but lost my copy, then managed to find one again on “that” bid website and after lending it to everyone I knew who might appreciate it I lost that too. I was overjoyed to find it on kindle. A fantastic book with well told stories linking together that enables us to engage with the dramatic nature of the animal world by showing us the human side. A book you want to tell people about. That I searched for it 25 years after first reading it must say something about how memorable it is. It is certainly one of my personal classics.” 5★





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