A rich, disturbing, and compelling read.



Beautifully crafted and psychologically astute, Osborne’s (Hunters in the Dark, 2016, etc.) latest novel takes us on another journey through a heart of moral darkness.

The “beautiful animals” of the title refer to two young women. Naomi Codrington is 24, rich, bored, and recently unemployed. She lives with her father and stepmother (refer to fairy tales for insight into that relationship) in a villa on a Greek island, a venue whose languorous sultriness provides a perfect backdrop for the unfolding of the action. Samantha “Sam” Haldane, a few years younger than Naomi, comes to the island for a summer with her family, and the two women strike up an uneasy friendship. Naomi is amoral and charismatic, a deadly combination for someone like Sam, who is naïve and dependent. In a remote place on the islands they discover Faoud, a man they take as a Syrian refugee, though he remains cagey about his background. Naomi decides to help him, but her motivation derives as much from a love of secrecy as from altruism. She comes up with a plan that involves providing money for Faoud by staging a robbery at her parents’ villa, but inevitably things go startlingly and tragically wrong. A writer of great intelligence and insight, Osborne now follows the nonintersecting paths of Faoud and the two women, for Faoud must flee a crime far greater than robbery. Osborne then explores the deepening tension between Naomi, who struggles to remain in control of a rapidly deteriorating situation, and Sam, who struggles with her continued deference to Naomi. The novel works engagingly on many levels, most basically that of plot but especially that of character and the fascination we have with people who bring out our moral disapproval. Osborne ultimately brings all of his complications involving Faoud, Naomi, and Sam to a logical but troubling conclusion.

A rich, disturbing, and compelling read.

Pub Date: July 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-553-44737-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hogarth/Crown

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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