Animal: Everyone in this novel sounds like Lisa Taddeo, but that’s OK

I hope Taddeo doesn’t write with anything so ghastly as a “target audience” in mind, but I am in it

Lisa Taddeo. Photograph: Molly Matalon/The New York Times

Lisa Taddeo. Photograph: Molly Matalon/The New York Times

Joan, the heroine of Animal, is the kind of person who constantly tells you what kind of person she is. Lisa Taddeo’s debut novel follows her nonfiction hit Three Women, and the mathematically sharp among you will notice a reduction in scale: there’s one truly important person here, while all the others are there to limn her. Joan leaves New York for Los Angeles to unravel her past after her boss-slash-inamorato shoots himself. The rest of the novel consists of flashbacks, set up by real-time events that contribute more to structure than momentum.

It’s notable that Joan has a name, for she is precisely the sort of narrator it’s become fashionable to leave anonymous: a fading temptress and low-key con artist, prone to glorifying her own pain, who steals objects and hates everything. She is nearly 37, and has “eaten too much caviar with men who didn’t marry [her]”.

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