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Book Review: Ella Baxter – New Animal

Amelia is a cosmetician at her family’s mortuary business in Tasmania and is stuck in an emotional rut. She’s convinced that she’s unfeeling, namely due to her ‘cold contacting’ men online to see who responds for a night of sex, before she tells them to leave or indeed sneaks off herself.

Though great at her job, it’s not exactly dancing with opportunities to socialise, and until the pivotal arc where Amelia’s mum dies, she continues to be stuck. However, with her mum gone, she struggles with feelings, not knowing how to compartmentalise or channel them through any conventional means. After meeting Leo, a sadist dom, she attempts to learn about the art of BDSM via a club and a variety of intriguing characters that colour the novel. This certainly adds flavour to her own understanding of herself, despite her obvious attempt to numb her emotions.

New Animal is a feisty short novel that interrogates and explores intimacy and sex, female sexuality, pleasure and loss. It’s an intriguing work from poet and sculpturist Ella Baxter. It’s witty, dry, and absurdist in areas, as Amelia navigates her feelings through characters like Vlad and Tanya. Its satire and sharpness are keenly observed as we inhale this anti-heroine, who’s on a path to self-destruct. Baxter creates mad, disorderly situations with her prose throughout New Animal, which will only gain resolve for the reader until reaching the bittersweet end.

New Animal is out now, published in paperback by Picador Books

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