New Animal

Ella Baxter

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17 February 2022
9781529074802
240 pages

Synopsis

‘Ella Baxter’s debut novel is drenched in sex and death . . . there’s also much love . . . An intense, viscerally affecting book, with the quotient of tenderness to violence in an equal scale.’ - Sydney Morning Herald

Amelia is no stranger to sex and death. Her job in her family’s funeral parlour, doing make-up on the dead, might be unusual, but she’s good at it. Life and warmth comes from the men she meets online – combining with someone else’s body at night in order to become something else, at least for a while.

But when a sudden loss severs her ties with someone she loves, Amelia sets off on a seventy-two-hour mission to outrun her grief – skipping out on the funeral, running away to stay with her father in Tasmania and experimenting on the local BDSM scene. There she learns more about sex, death, grief, and the different ways pain works its way through the body.

It takes two fathers, a bruising encounter with a stranger and recognition of her own body’s limits to bring Amelia back to herself.

Deadpan, wise and heartbreakingly funny, Ella Baxter’s New Animal is a stunning debut.

Baxter’s writing is so forthright, her protagonist so raw and unmediated in her feelings, thoughts and flailing at the “arrowhead of sorrow” that New Animal makes for compelling reading . . . an intense, viscerally affecting book, with the quotient of tenderness to violence in an equal scale.

Sydney Morning Herald

Baxter is fascinated with the female body, which “trots everywhere with you like an indebted lover”, and how it assimilates extreme emotions . . . Self-destructive anti-heroines are in vogue, but what Amelia’s story makes clear is how under-represented female sexuality still is.

Telegraph

There's a compelling quality to [Amelia's] honesty that recalls Raven Leilani's Luster or the sex-addicted eponymous narrator of Leila Slimani's Adele. As with these books, Baxter focuses on the ways in which pain works its way through the body.

Irish Times