Paperback: 320pp

Published: Lightning Books (July 2021)

ISBN: 9781785632846

We Are Animals

Tim Ewins


‘The feel-good story we all need right now’


A cow looks out to sea, dreaming of a life that involves grass.

Jan is also looking out to sea. He’s in Goa, dreaming of the thief who stole his heart (and his passport) forty-six years ago. Back then, fate kept bringing them together, but lately it seems to have given up.

Jan has not. In his long search he has travelled the world, tangling with murderers and pick-pockets and accidentally holding a whole Russian town at imaginary gunpoint. Now he thinks if he just waits and does nothing, fate may find it easier to reunite them – if only he can shake off an annoying teenager who won’t go away. But then, perhaps an annoying teenager is exactly what Jan needs to help him find his old flame?

Featuring a menagerie of creatures, each with its own story to tell, We Are Animals is a comic Homeric odyssey with shades of Jonas Jonasson’s Hundred-Year-Old Man. A quirky, heart-warming tale of lost love, unlikely friendships and the mysteries of fate, it moves and delights in equal measure.


The man looked to his right. Three Indian men walked along the sand holding hands, a French couple started to pack up their towels and put various beach objects into an oversized floral bag, and a cow looked out to sea, maybe dreaming of a life which involved grass.

He looked to his left. He could see the rocks where the beach ended. The sun was going down and there was an Israeli man setting up a tripod, holding his camera high to protect the lens from any stray grains of sand that might want to nestle in its cracks. A bit further down an Indian family were playing in the water – the adults fully clothed, and the children fully not.

He saw no sign of her.



Chapter 1

A crab

Goa, India. 2016

The man looked to his right. Three Indian men walked along the sand holding hands, a French couple started to pack up their towels and put various beach objects into an oversized floral bag, and a cow looked out to sea, maybe dreaming of a life which involved grass.

He looked to his left. He could see the rocks where the beach ended. The sun was going down and there was an Israeli man setting up a tripod, holding his camera high to protect the lens from any stray grains of sand that might want to nestle in its cracks. A bit further down an Indian family were playing in the water – the adults fully clothed, and the children fully not.

He saw no sign of her.

He looked right again. One of the Indian men was laughing and pushing one of the others, the French couple were halfway up the beach now, arms around each other, and the cow was still staring, or dreaming, whichever it was.

The man strained his eyes as hard as he could, but still he couldn’t see her.

He looked again to his left. The men in the family were taking it in turns to hold their breath under the waves and the women were chatting among each other and watching their little ones. On the shore, predictably, the Israeli man was rubbing his camera’s lens frantically with his T-shirt and grumbling to himself.

It was no good. She wasn’t there. Just like she hadn’t been there the day before, or the day before that. In fact, she hadn’t been there any day for the past five years. But he always looked anyway. Just in case. Because, probably, one day, she would be there, and he’d hate to miss it.

Regardless of her persistent absence, the man always loved this time of day on Palolem Beach. It wasn’t too hot, but it certainly wasn’t cold, and everyone seemed relaxed. Even the lady who paced the length of the beach all day selling melons eased off on her selling at this time, and she would often find a tourist to sit and chat with. The tourist would always buy a melon afterwards of course, but that didn’t seem to be her aim.

One more check, he thought. He looked to his right. This time he could only see the cow, who hadn’t moved her holy self one inch. The men had gone, and the couple must have made it back to their beach hut. Then he looked to his left. The family continued to play, the cameraman was mounting his camera, seemingly content that he’d saved his lens from a sandy death, and a bar worker was bringing out a sign which read ‘COCK-tails – buy one, get two free’.

The man scowled.

Three girls were climbing over the rocks where the beach ended, back onto Palolem, and the man wondered whether they’d enjoyed their day. He knew where they’d have gone because Palolem was the closest place he’d had to a home in forty-one years.

He knew that over the rocks they’d have found another smaller beach with rocks at both ends. Over the next set of rocks, they’d have found a much bigger beach which would’ve taken them about an hour and a half to walk down. And then, when they’d have reached the end, they’d have found more rocks. Some people would get bored of exploring at this point and turn back, but he’d noticed these girls leave early in the morning, so he guessed that they’d carried on to the next set of beaches and rocks. ‘What an exciting day they must have had,’ thought the man – he used to love exploring.

‘That was awful,’ said one of the girls, and the man sighed.

He was sitting four bars down the beach from the COCK-tail bar, but he still jumped when the DJ played the first thud of music. He wondered whether they’d started playing the music louder or whether it was the direction of the wind. It had definitely been getting earlier – it never used to start thudding until after dark. He sipped his red wine and closed his eyes.

‘Silent disco tonight ladies?’ The man opened one of his eyes to see a young male with ginger hair, an insanely wide smile and a hint of crazy in his eyes next to the three girls. The boy was luminous from the waist up.

‘Another poxy vest,’ the man mumbled under his breath and then re-shut his open eye.

Even with his eyes closed, he knew that the vest would be bending his knees in time to the thudding. His neck would be bobbing along too, and he’d probably have his mouth slightly open. They always have their mouths slightly open, he thought.

The man exhaled loudly and opened both eyes lazily.

‘Yin?’ the vest asked the girls. It was amazing, thought the man, how only when he was speaking, did the vest’s mouth appear to close. What did he mean, yin? The man knew a few languages, but he had never heard ‘yin’ used in this context before. He’d heard of yin, as in the yin usually followed by yang. And he’d heard of Yen, the currency. He even knew the meaning of yìn (a Chinese verb, meaning ‘to print’), but it seemed such an unlikely verb for a vest to be using to sell a silent disco in South India.

‘Yeah, we’re in,’ answered one of the girls, and the man felt silly – ‘Y’in?’ – of course.

The vest, bending his knees in time to the thudding, neck bobbing, and with his mouth slightly open, handed the girls some flyers and watched the three of them walk off.

If the man ignored the music, as he had grown used to doing each night, he could hear the gentle lapping of the waves on the beach, the quiet natter of the melon-selling lady with her chosen tourist, and the sounds of a few birds communicating in their bird way (‘Cacaaa?’ one bird would ask, and another would reply ‘Cacaaa!’ in agreement, and then they would steal some fish from the fishermen). It was getting cooler now and he pushed his toes into the sand below his chair as he drifted off into a blissful sleep.


‘Silent disco tonight, old timer?’ The man awoke and saw a boy with ginger hair, an insanely wide smile and a hint of crazy in his eyes peering over him. He was bending his knees in time to a different, quicker-paced, thudding. His neck was bobbing along, and his mouth was slightly open.

The man stood up and walked towards the shore, ignoring the intrusive vest completely.

He looked to his right. The cow was now wandering up the beach by herself, gently waving her tail and probably looking for grass. The melon-selling lady was finishing her conversation with her chosen tourist and exchanging her last melon for a few rupees.

Then he looked to his left. He could see the rocks where the beach ended. The Indian family were now out of the water – the adults fully clothed and the children fully not – and the Israeli man was packing away his tripod, holding the camera high to protect the lens from any further stray grains of sand.

In both directions, he saw several gatherings of bubbler-crabs, all rolling the sand into tiny balls behind them. That’s what bubbler-crabs do.

Still, the man saw no signs of her.

He made his way back to his chair, past the vest, who amazingly hadn’t moved at all and was still staring at the spot where the man had been sitting originally, as if the man had remained sitting there the whole time. The man sat down, took a sip of his red wine, looked at the vest, and paused.


‘Silent disco tonight, old timer?’

‘Old timer?’

‘Old timer. Y’know. Not like, old timer. But, old timer.’

‘I’m sixty-four!’ said the man, as a small wave washed away hundreds of the bubbler-crabs’ small balls of sand.

‘I said, not like, old timer, but that’s quite old...timer. Sorry. My boss says I’ve got to be friendly. You’re a young man. Just not as young as me. But I’m youuung. Like, really young. Especially to you.’

The man stared at the vest, and the vest stared at the man. ‘My name’s Shakey,’ said the vest, trying to be polite, and then they stared at each other for a few more seconds.

‘Shakey,’ said the man.

‘Shakey,’ said Shakey. ‘Silent disco tonight old t...?’ His sentence trailed off.

The man was making things difficult for Shakey, who was, after all, just doing his job. Shakey had met people like this man before. Another stupid moustache, he thought. He hated moustaches.


‘A warm, funny and really original story about chance meetings, unlikely friendships and love lost and found, with the quirky human characters joined by a cast of animal onlookers, each with their own story to tell. Beautifully written, it’s been one of my favourite books of 2020’

Frances Quinn

‘Wonderful. A funny, heartwarming and craftily clever book’

Matson Taylor

‘An amazingly inventive, funny book that deals with fate, love, teenagers and chance. It’s like Life of Pi on its gap year. Utterly brilliant!’

Victoria Dowd

‘If you read one book this year, read this one. Seriously good stuff’

Stewart Giles

‘Something quite special. Laugh out loud funny, quirky and with hidden depth’

Laura Besley

‘A curious tale of love and fate, told with humour and insight’

Gillian Harvey


‘Spanning 60 years and 10 different countries, Tim Ewins’ adventurous tale elegantly combines elements of romance, thriller and comedy while exploring long-lost loves and moving friendships’

Woman’s Own

‘A humorous read, packed with colourful characters and imagery and enabling you to experience the places through the eyes of humans and animals alike’

Buzz Magazine

‘A heartwarming tale of lost love and unlikely friendships, featuring a menagerie of animals who each have their story to tell’

Waitrose Weekend

‘A wonderfully original and humorous novel about lost love, hope and the complex lives of humans and other animals’

Booktime Magazine

‘A witty, engaging, offbeat tale of a decades-spanning love, set in various locations across the world and co-starring several animals’

Bristol 24/7

‘A debut of magical charm, wit and humour. Echoing the spirit and the style of Jonas Jonasson, Ewins has a wondrous voice of his own’

Yorkshire Times

‘A feel-good story about how sometimes the best thing to do is just have faith that everything will work out in the end. I think it’s the story we all need right now’


‘Not just a funny book – it’s a story with genuine heart. At times I was reminded of Jonas Jonasson’s novels, but in truth it’s hard to compare We Are Animals to other works: it is resolutely its own beast’


‘A real gem of a book [told with] lightness and humour, and also real poignancy and tenderness. Surprisingly for such a funny book, I did cry at several points’


‘So beautifully and cleverly written, with loveable ordinary but brilliant characters that tell you a fascinating and deeply touching story. This is a book about love, fate, hope and all those small but unforgettable moments. It’s a feel-good story that makes you think deeper about everything we want in life and what life offers us. And the symbolism is so stunning, I’m in awe’

The Book Confessions *****

‘A beautifully repeating pattern of small moments of happiness and sadness, mixed with plenty of humour, pathos and an unbelievable number of coincidences. It is also the story of how we touch each others lives, unknowing, as we move around the planet focused intently on our own priorities. Both amusing and profound, this book stands out from the crowd, and will stay with you long after the sounds of the silent disco fade’

Bookshine and Readbows

‘There were times I found myself laughing out loud even in a train carriage when I thought I was alone. This is a different novel that is so profound and at the same time beautiful’

The Last Word Book Review

‘If you love quirky then you’ll adore this very different, witty, poignant, clever book. It’s a fresh, sweetly touching novel that will twang your heartstrings whilst making you smile’

Books are Cool

‘What a funny, heart-warming and surprising book – the right mix of humour and emotion. The story seems so absurd at its beginning, but as it progresses it becomes so much more. It’s about love and loss and hope and fate, and how lives are touched and changed by passing encounters. The writing is so clever and witty that I found myself laughing out loud’

My Treasure in Books

‘A fabulously entertaining and heartwarming story. It’s a humorous homage to travel, love, loss and fate. And the animals, don’t forget the animals! It’s a tale that will warm your heart while breaking it a little’

A Little Bright Corner

‘I loved it. Seriously smart, heartfelt and original with a good dollop of humour thrown in. I read it in one and will definitely reread it’

Well Read Cat *****

‘A joyful story about love, unlikely friendships, unexpected events and fate. I really enjoyed my adventure’

Book Blogging Bureau

‘Written with great tenderness, truth and sprinkled throughout with some great comic one liners... a truly joyful read’

Babbage and Sweetcorn

‘I loved the wacky situations that Manjan found himself in because of misunderstandings. His antics reminded me of any good episode of Seinfeld’

Books Over Everything

‘Hilarious, heart-breaking, and absolutely entertaining’

The Book Decoder

‘I loved this book. It’s full of everything that makes reading a pleasure. Wit, warmth, an eye for a good story, delightful characterisations... It’s unassumingly clever. You’ll laugh and you’ll cry too’


‘This extraordinary novel had me hooked from the start and what a wild journey it was! I had no idea how absolutely weird and totally immersive this quirky, wonderful and beguiling tale would be’

Zoe’s Book Nook

‘A wonderful five-star story of love. Please add this to your reading list’

Travels Along My Bookshelf

‘A love story, travelogue, meditation, comedy and tragedy all in one...with animal chapters as literary palate cleansers. The disparate strands come together to create a beautiful story about being human and doing what E.M. Forster suggested was our purpose on earth – to connect’

Lotus Writing Therapy

‘A story full of love and hope...a spectacular journey to be on’

Babydolls and Razorblades *****

‘Very unique and whimsical’

Coffey’s Corner *****

‘A little absurd, a little sad, a little hopeful, and overall heart-breaking in its acceptance. I think if you like the works of David Sedaris, you’ll enjoy We Are Animals

Radzy Writes, Reads and Reviews

‘A book you have to read if you want something special. After this debut I hope to read more ingenious crafted novels by Tim Ewins’

Fany Goes English

‘What starts off as a tale of lost love soon turns much deeper, showing how fate and chance can cause our paths to cross at just the right moment… both heartwarming and heartbreaking... I can’t wait to see more from Tim Ewins’

KT Robson

‘I took a leap with this book but I laughed and cried with its characters. I loved everything about it’

Jessica Belmont

‘Poignant…astute…authentic and relatable...The hopeful ending encompasses the quirky nature of the story, whilst achieving a sense of completeness’

Jane Hunt

‘Being funny in a book is hard. When I came across We Are Animals, I knew I’d found a book that did it well. Not trying too hard, not forced, just a humorous tone that gets you wryly smiling at the quirks of human nature as much as it makes you laugh out loud’

Sarah Scribbles

‘Heartbreaking and hilarious and so easy to get lost in. If you trust my recommendations even a small amount, please please please pick this up… you will NOT be disappointed’



Here’s a Q&A with Bristol 24/7 where Tim Ewins talks about the transition from stand-up to fiction.

Tim talks to the Yorkshire Times about We Are Animals.

Tim speaks to Write On! about his writing story.

And here he is on the Write Through the Roof podcast talking about his writing...and again on the Reading Envy podcast.

Tim talks to the Babble podcast about writing and sings a scene from it in the style of Whitney Houston. As you do.


Tim Ewins

Alongside his accidental career in finance, Tim Ewins performed in stand-up comedy for eight years. He also had a very brief acting stint (he’s in the film Bronson, somewhere in the background) before turning to writing fiction.

His first novel, We Are Animals, was published by Lightning Books in 2021.

He lives with his wife, son and dog near Bristol.