I drove myself out of New York City where a man shot himself in front of me.
He was a gluttonous man and when his blood came out it looked like the blood of a pig.
That’s a cruel thing to think, I know. He did it in a restaurant where I was having dinner with another man, another married man.
Do you see how this is going?
But I wasn’t always that way.
I am depraved. I hope you like me.
Firstly, thank you so much to Georgina Moore for sending me a proof copy of Animal, one of the must read books of Summer 21. Having heard LOTS about this book, to say I was eager to read it is an understatement, but having just finished I am struggling to find the words to write my review.
‘I would start by saying that the governing principle behind (Animal) is that we are more comfortable in diagnosing madness in women – saying she’s ‘crazy’ – than we are examining where she’s coming from and why she is the way she is… For me, the essence of the book is about more than the plot. I think about the book in terms of the bigger motivations behind it. How difficult it is for me that people aren’t okay with other people’s trauma… (In) Animal, there’s this idea of a woman taking the power back and not giving a f–k what other people think‘ Lisa Taddeo, Entertainment Weekly
The above quote by Lisa Taddeo is the essence of Animal, Joan is our protagonist and the books starts as she leaves New York after the shooting referenced in the description. The book proceeds in the first person voice of Joan, telling her story to a person unknown. Joan is heading to LA to find Alice – another unknown. To say there are a lot of unknowns in this book is an understandment, it is fast paced and told in a somewhat chaotic manner, deliberately so, this was never meant to be a comfortable or easy read.
Provocative language illustrates Joan’s anger, her depravity, as we gradually learn her life story told over several time frames, her childhood, her time in New York and her move to LA. We learn she is a product of her experiences but what is illustrated so well is her treatment as a woman by men. How they view and experience her, their expectations of her. She is angry and her experience aggressively highlights the seemingly trivial experiences of women, the looks, the scrutiny of the male gaze that are all to frequent and uninvited.
She describes herself as depraved, but that is not to say she is unsympathetic. For me she felt more damaged, by her parents (her father) and how this affected every subsequent relationship. I was struck thinking about where the blames lies, who is actually responsible and who is held responsible? This will make sense once you have read the book. I was also left wondering, damaged or depraved, which is better, does it matter? Either way she is behaving out of the realms of our expectations of women and in doing so she invites certain responses. A self fulfilling prophecy maybe, but we learn she is looking for something. Wanting to belong and be loved.
Lisa Taddeo once again demostrates her own strength in exploring and writing about the female experience, seeking I think to further break out of the structures that limit us. Animal is an important novel, one that took a while for me to settle into but one that is best described as raw, powerful and unsettling, it is a brutal read, thought provoking and intense and one we will be hearing lots more about over this summer!
Recommended reading for anyone, a hard hitting and provocative look at the female experience, valid in its direct execution. A book I would suggest reading in large chunks over a short spell if possible, this is fast paced, there is a lot going on and certainly for me significant reading periods help me track the plot.
About the Author
Lisa Taddeo is the author of Three Women, which she is currenlty adapting for a television series with Showtime. Three Women was both a Sunday Times and a New York Times number one bestseller, the most- picked book of the year in the UK in 2019, the British Book Awards Narrative Non-Fiction Book of the Year and the Foyles Non-Fiction Book of the Year. She is one of a select few authors to have published both fiction and non-fiction in Playboy, alongside Margaret Atwood, Vladimir Nabokov, Kingsley Amis and Norman Mailer, and she is also working on television projects with Netflix and Annapurna Pictures. She lives with her husband and daughter in New England.