Book Review: Holy Cow by David Duchovny

Title: Holy Cow 
Author: David Duchovny 
Publisher: Headline (UK) & Farrar, Straus & Giroux (US) 
Publication Date: 3 February 2015

Twitter: @davidduchovny 

Rating: 4 out of 5


Holy Cow by David Duchovny is a comic delight that will thrill fans of Jasper Fforde and Ben Aaronovitch. And anyone who enjoys a witty wisecrack in a novel.
Elsie Bovary is a cow and a pretty happy one at that. Until one night, Elsie sneaks out of the pasture and finds herself drawn to the farmhouse. Through the window, she sees the farmer’s family gathered around a bright Box God – and what the Box God reveals about something called an ‘industrial meat farm’ shakes Elsie’s understanding of her world to its core.

The only solution? To escape to a better, safer world. And so a motley crew is formed: Elsie; Shalom, a grumpy pig who’s recently converted to Judaism; and Tom, a suave turkey who can’t fly, but can work an iPhone with his beak. Toting stolen passports and slapdash human disguises, they head for the airport …
Elsie is a wise-cracking, slyly witty narrator; Tom dispenses psychiatric advice in a fake German accent; and Shalom ends up unexpectedly uniting Israelis and Palestinians. David Duchovny’s charismatic creatures point the way toward a mutual understanding and acceptance the world desperately needs.


Holy Cow is the debut novel from David Duchovy, an actor known for his work in The X-Files and Californication. However, less well-known is the fact that Duchovny actually has an MA in English Literature from Yale.

Holy Cow is a fanciful and imaginative novel with a difference – its narrator is Elsie Bovary, a cow. Yes, a cow! Sound a bit crazy? Well, it certainly is!

Elsie lives a fairly content if unexciting life on a farm in upstate New York. She spends her days wandering around the fields and eyeing up the bulls in the neighbouring field with her best friend, Mallory. However, after watching TV through the farmhouse window and realising what really awaits her, the fear of  the slaughterhouse proves too much for Elsie and she decides to join forces with Jerry the Jewish pig (who changes his name to the more kosher-sounding Shalom) and Tom the turkey to escape the farm. She plans to travel to India where cows are worshiped as sacred animals. Henceforth starts their adventures into the big wide world, moving in human disguises through London, Turkey, Israel, Palestine and India.

What can I say except this story is absolutely bonkers! How can a book involving anthromorphic animals disguised as humans and travelling by aeroplane be anything but absolutely crazy?! Holy Cow is eccentric, unusual, very funny and very clever, mixing teen lingo (OMG, BFF etc…) with modern politics, pop culture references and an honest look at human nature (albeit through the eyes of an extraordinarily astute cow!). It is a book that will make you both laugh out loud at the absurdity of it all whilst also causing you to think about issues that you may not have been anticipating, such as tolerance, friendship and acceptance.

The humour is witty and undoubtedly aimed at adults, although the clever social commentary is hidden behind a very simplistic writing style which makes it almost childlike to read. There’s no pretention here to an overly verbose and complex literary novel, rather it is simple, insightful and side-splittingly funny.
In fact, Holy Cow is one of the funniest books I have read in a long time, making me chuckle out loud as I am shown the world through a cow’s eyes. It is unique, charming, very funny and it certainly made an interesting change to my normal choice of books.

I appreciate the fact that this book may not appeal to everyone, however I challenge you to give it a go and let me know what you think!

About the Author

 David Duchovny is a television, stage and screen actor, as well as a screenwriter and director.

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