Like many readers around the world – I read – and loved Three Women by Lisa Taddeo. An unputdownable exploration of the love lives of three women living in modern-day America, it swiftly became one of 2019’s most sought-after non-fiction books, and subsequently positioned American author and journalist Taddeo, as something of a literary sensation.
And so, like many readers around the world, after finishing Three Women, I eagerly awaited her next book. Announced at the end of last year, and published by Bloomsbury, Animal is described as a depiction of female rage at its rawest, and a visceral exploration of the fallout from a male-dominated society, and has been lauded by writers and critics alike in the lead up to its publication. Not having the patience to wait until June, I sourced myself a proof copy and soon after sat down to meet one of literature’s dark and disturbing characters to date.
Animal Book Review
Disquieting and unsettling from the very first page, Animal opens with a violent and public suicide that causes the book’s protagonist, Joan, to flee across the country from New York to Los Angeles, in search of Alice, a woman she’s never met and the last person alive who can shed light on Joan’s dark past.
She arrives in California; rents a home from an odd man called Leonard in the Santa Monica Mountains; gets a job at a health food store, befriends a local guy who lives in a yurt near to her house.
And as the tale begins to unfold, we learn more about her past; the events of a traumatic and horrific childhood that have left a permanent mark on her spirit and turned her into someone who allows herself to be used and denigrated by men. Weaving between her past and her present day, Animal explores themes of loss, separation, anxiety, depression, sexual assault, miscarriage, death, lust and rage, all of which form a tapestry of pain that underpins her existence.
Addictive, affecting and deeply unsettling, Animal is as visceral as it is violent. It’s a book about a painfully white dress; and it offers a nuanced look at the female sexual experience, and explores how long held trauma can be carried like armour. This is a book about brutality and about the women who survive men and the lifelong cost of that survival. Further proving Taddeo’s prowess as a skilled storytelling who doesn’t shy away from controversy, Animal is a powerful and unnerving tale that isn’t for the faint hearted.
Animal by Lisa Taddeo Summary
Joan has spent a lifetime enduring the cruel acts of men. But when one of them commits a shocking act of violence in front of her, she flees New York City in search of Alice, the only person alive who can help her make sense of her past. In the sweltering hills above Los Angeles, Joan unravels the horrific event she witnessed as a child—that has haunted her every waking moment—while forging the power to finally strike back.
Here is the electrifying debut novel from Lisa Taddeo, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller and international phenomenon Three Women, which was named to more than thirty best-of-the-year lists and hailed as “a dazzling achievement” (Los Angeles Times) and “a heartbreaking, gripping, astonishing masterpiece” (Esquire). Animal is a depiction of female rage at its rawest, and a visceral exploration of the fallout from a male-dominated society. With writing that scorches and mesmerizes, Taddeo illustrates one woman’s exhilarating transformation from prey into predator.
This interview with Lisa Taddeo on The Guardian about her bestselling book, Three Women is a great read.
Lisa Taddeo Author Bio
Lisa Taddeo spent eight years and thousands of hours tracking the women whose stories comprise Three Women, moving to the towns they lived in to better understand their lives. She has contributed to New York magazine, Esquire, Elle, Glamour and many other publications. Her short stories have won two Pushcart Prizes. She lives with her husband and daughter in Connecticut.
More Lisa Taddeo Books
Lisa Taddeo has also written the ground-breaking Three Women, a record of unmet needs, unspoken thoughts, disappointments, hopes and unrelenting obsessions.
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