August 06

Animal by Lisa Taddeo

When I finished reading Animal I felt like I had been mauled by a dog. Not that I have ever been mauled by a dog mind you, so don’t know for sure, but I imagine you feel pretty shaken, raw, roughed up. Not quite yourself. Bits of you hanging off.

That was me.

If you read Three Women you know Taddeo doesn’t muck around. It’s gritty. Unforgiving. Same with Animal. There is no holding back and I was definitely shaken and stirred with every page which basically meant I couldn’t put it down.

The author said she wanted the reader to have a visceral experience reading her book. I ticked that box Taddeo so let’s get into why.

‘I am depraved. I hope you like me’. Readheads, meet Joan.

This story belongs to her and to every woman who’s had to survive the tyranny of men. Joan, mid thirties, knows these men well. We meet her trying to understand and escape the suicide of her lover who shot himself in front of her in a restaurant while she was dining with another lover. Both men were married, manipulative and cruel. We can get into her choice of lover later, but yes, no argument, they’re clearly not good.

Trying to deal with the violence of the suicide, Joan flees New York and heads to California to try and finally unearth a familial secret and rid herself of the anguish she has absorbed for decades. She is looking for a woman named Alice who she thinks holds the answer. She ends up in the baked canyon outside LA, renting with an unusual group of men and is constantly circled by them and the wild coyotes that roam the compound. It’s hot, dusty, desperate as are the relationships between those who live there.

Joan finds Alice, and like a coyote herself, Joan circles, getting closer and closer. The two form a friendship but it’s murky. Something is always off and you kind of know why but you’re not entirely certain. In between, the young daughter of Joan’s dead lover finds her and arrives at her home ready to kill her. She too, a victim of her cruel father (and mother!) stays holed up in Joan’s house, threatening and unstable. I’d like to think the people in these pages are simply at their worst, but I don’t know. Maybe I’m just sheltered but I’d absolutely hate to meet any of them.

This book is bloody and unsavoury. Stripped back. Violent. Full of selfish desperation. It is relentless from the first page to the last and I can honestly say I haven’t read anything like this for years. I didn’t breath for much of it and probably drank too much wine because of it.

I’d grab this one for sure Readheads and yes Joan, you are definitely, absolutely, without question depraved but somehow I do like you. Well, mostly anyway. As for your mother and father, well the jury is still out.

But that is just my two cents worth.