Animal by Lisa Taddeo review – dangerous liaisons in Los Angeles

A damaged woman embarks on a sexual odyssey in this visceral exploration of empowerment and consent

Lisa Taddeo’s bestselling debut, Three Women, made headlines as much for its process as its theme; Taddeo spent eight years moving around the US, immersing herself in her subjects in pursuit of an intimate portrait of the sex lives of (straight, white) American women. In each of her three case studies lurked the shadow of past or present abuse; female desire, the book seemed to conclude, is inseparable from what has been done to us by men.

Her first novel, Animal, explores the same territory. “I am depraved,” announces her narrator, Joan, with a mixture of pride and shame. At 36, she has a fierce sexual appetite, but she also regards sex as currency, an approach she learned at a young age from her aunt: “She taught me that men will use you unless you use them first.” Much of Joan’s inner monologue – and her dialogue – is concerned with the ambiguity she feels about her own desires, and her obsession with the constant power plays between men and women. “There are rapes, and then there are the rapes we allow to happen, the ones we shower and get ready for,” another woman tells her.

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