‘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.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 80 members
Wow. Not even sure where to begin with this one.
A perfect, honest and hard hitting account of grief, losing a mother and how its (not) handled.
This weirdly has the perfect mix of grief and sex which stunned me but it absolutely worked.
Some shocking scenes- not for the faint hearted.
Raw, unique, clever.
And its a debut. OHMYGOODNESS.
Genius - funny, but also angry and righteous, this felt like a really new voice. I loved the pace, the writing, and the pages zipped by before I had realised it.
“I decide, while fully penetrated, to consent, because you can always throw your body on the fire to keep others warm. I was already filled with petrol; he’s just a man-shaped match.”
Amelia uses sex to escape from her own mind and, presumably, also her day job as a mortician. But, when she loses a member of her own family, she seeks distraction in more extreme places. It makes for fascinating reading.
I got major Australian Fleabag vibes from this book (and I mean that as a huge compliment). It caught me very off guard with how beautiful and deep the writing is, while Amelia is also incredibly relatable, awkward and charming. It’s such an addictive and likeable mixture.
It’s the kind of book I find inspiring. It’s short, it’s deep, it’s moving. I absolutely blasted through it, and yet it made me cry with both laughter and sorrow in that short space of time.
There are very strange scenes of kink experimentation, characters you hope to never come across in your own life (pun not intended), and paragraphs so deeply existential that you have to stare into space for a little while after reading them.
Memorable for all the right reasons.
“The deceased are beyond beautiful, but only because they are so empty of worry. Everything tense or unlikeable is gone. Like a shipping centre in the middle of the night, they have lost all the chaos and clatter.”
New Animal will be released on 17th February 2022, thank you NetGalley for the arc.
A strikingly original debut from Ella Baxter that centres on Amelia, a young woman who works in her stepfather’s funeral home and uses one night stands in an attempt to cure her struggling mental health. A shocking loss then sees Amelia experiment with BDSM as a way to block out her spiralling thoughts. Despite the often morbid themes, this is a very funny book and Baxter is (to use a painfully overused term) ‘one to watch’. I have read a lot of novels that focus on ‘unlikeable’, messy female protagonists who have unhealthy attitudes to sex but New Animal was original enough to stand out. I’d be interested in reading a follow up (surely the burgeoning Vlad subplot is ripe for a sequel?!).
a really raw, intense, visceral read. Thoroughly enjoyed it. The contrast of the warmth and love from her family, and the coldness in her relationships was great.
In Ellie Baxter's debut novel New Animal Ameila is a cadaver make up artist in the family funeral parlour in Australia . Amelia loves her job but spends too much of her spare time having fairly soulless sexual encounters with random men she finds online. When a loved one dies Amelia is distraught,cannot handle the thought of the funeral and flees to Tasmania to stay with her estranged Dad .Unable to curb her online hook up habit Amelia finds herself involved in the local BDSM scene where she hopes to find some answers about herself.
This is a quirky book, the characters and dialogue reminded me very much of Mike Leigh's movies with slightly strange people and bizarre situations that combined for serious belly laughs. It's not a book for the squeamish, I'm not particularly but cringed at a couple of Amelia's escapades .
Ella Baxter is a real talent,from a fairly pedestrian beginning, not much happens at all for a few pages the book then seemed to be accelerating into an attempt to shock the reader as much as possible..then there's a truly amazing ending that is almost sheer poetry .
I think this book will sharply divide opinion, it's definitely odd and some will hate it given the nature of some of the scenes, which are very near the knuckle in a number of ways. Others will think it's a work of genius. I wouldn't go quite that far but it is a very impressive piece of work , To switch from some of the quite brutal and gross scenes before it to something as beautiful and moving as the ending and make it work is quite an achievement.
Ella Baxter’s New Animal is a shockingly powerful debut novel. It is a raw and unflinching look at what it is to grieve. It is bold and it is shocking. You can feel the grief of Baxter’s protagonist Amelia positively oozing off of the pages, it is that palpable.
This is not a book for the faint hearted, the grief is raw and it is tied up with a young woman’s abuse of her own body as she seeks escape through the extremes of sex. But it is also a novel that is so intrinsically about love, after all to feel the depth of grief that Amelia is feeling you must have first felt deep love.
New Animal centres on Amelia who works at her families mortuary where she is the make up artist to the deceased. At the offset Amelia seeks to find solace, and escape through casual sex with people she meets online. She is searching for oblivion in the pursuit if becoming a ‘new animal’. But soon Amelia is faced with a devastating loss that sends her absolutely spiralling and unable to cope. She struggles to cope with the discord between her mind and body, seeking to annihilate both.
The way Baxter describes Amelia’s work and reverence towards her clients is simply beautiful. Without giving anything away, the way she dealt with her final client, and the realisations it led her to had me in floods of tears. Early on Amelia explains the beauty of working with the deceased and that they ‘are so beautiful but only because they are so emptied of worry’. Such deep and profound insights and musings are found throughout New Animal and really go to showcase what an exceptional piece of writing this is.
This is a book that may make you feel uncomfortable and may be triggering for some, but given it’s content I don’t think it could be any other way. It’s certainly a very striking debut that will make you feel as well as think.
New Animal is an incredible book that I can't wait for everyone to read!
I read this book in one sitting, and it shocked me and made me incredibly sad. Books that give us such strong reactions are truly rare.
Wow. This book is genuis. Where do I begin? Clever, funny, hard hitting, outrageous, angry... I could go on. Some scenes are quite shocking but it works. Everything in this book works. I was sceptical about the mix of grief and (lots of) sex but, like I said, it worked. And it's a debut!!
Amelia Aurelia is a cosmetic mortician who loves her job; she communes with death, sees the beauty in it, and helps people with their grief. In her personal life, though, Amelia is a little less assured, falling into half-night-stands, using sex as a way to turn off her mind. When tragedy strikes her family - suddenly, with breathtaking cruelty - Amelia’s desire to separate head and body hits new heights.
I saw this described in a few as “sad girl fic”, a definition I intend to shamelessly use forever. As a self-proclaimed sad girl, this Australian author’s debut impressed me a lot. It’s very short, designed to be read in big gulps, and ties together tragedy and comedy in perceptive and heartrending ways. It’s easy to fall in love with Amelia in all her chaotic glory - she’s so deeply taken with her job, the earnest quality of it is incredibly endearing.
That's why the tragic turn this story takes is so devastating. I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach reading it - it wasn’t that I didn’t expect it, as such, but the depiction of grief is just so raw that I found myself flattened by it, and even had to put the book down for a day or two. Baxter’s skill here is evident, and she fearlessly takes the reader into this world of grief and pain. Amelia’s grief is all-consuming; she tells others that she is not coping on a routine basis - but the rest of her life is still there too, and she has to cope with that. Her family are mostly side characters in this novel, with the exception of her two dads, and I would have loved to have seen more of them, but I understand why we didn’t. Grief can be tunnel vision, narrowed down so it’s just you and this absence, and Baxter captured this so well.
I haven’t even mentioned the kink elements of this book which will no doubt be the most-talked about ones when the book is released next year. It was intense, raw, and a little heartbreaking, though it’s also a depiction of a community where consent and communication come first, a far cry from any 50 Shades-type messiness. It wasn’t my favourite element of the book but it was compelling, and propelled the plot forward.
New Animal deserves to be pressed into the hands of many next year when it’s released. A moving depiction of grief and an excellent portrait of a young woman at a crossroads, it’s clever, fiery and addictive.
Wow I did not expect to find myself on the verge of tears after finishing this book!
New Animal is so many things at once. A fascinating look at the funeral care industry (I learned so much!), a depiction of BDSM (I also learned so much!) and the thread of grief running throughout.
This book had some of the best descriptions of p pop parent-child relationships I’ve ever read, as Amelia, who works at her family’s funeral directors, deals with the death of her mother.
This book is fascinating and brilliant and heart breaking. I read it over a weekend and just wish it had been longer.
A tragic and heartbreaking novel exploring hard hitting themes of loss and love.
Poignant yet a harsh blow to the gut at times.This is powerful writing and a fascinating insight into the industry of funeral services.
Razor sharp prose and dark humour keeks you turning the pages.
I was really lucky to be able to read this ahead of time thanks to #NetGalley especially as the synopsis of the book sounded amazing when it hit my email inbox.
What I loved about New Animal aside from some of the grotesque and sexy detailing, was the writing overall. I found the way Baxter wrote about Amelia's grief and heartbreak was so profound and quite beautiful at the same time.
New Animal is equal parts heartbreaking as it is raunchy, which is a combination that you think doesn't work but it does.
I was very much reminded of Boy Parts reading this, which as you ALL know is one of my favourite books of all time. You like but loathe the protagonist in a sense that you understand her decisions but you can't help but want to shake her sometimes.
The only thing I think was lacking was a bit more context on the situation with this Daniel character that seemed to weave in and out, and I feel like it ended quite abruptly. Other than that I massively enjoyed New Animal and would recommend it to anyone after their next fix after Boy Parts.
I really enjoyed this book. Baxter has a fresh voice and there were some excellent observations. The parts with the grief for her mother really resonated. I think the author is one to watch.
Really enjoyed this novel. The writing is so good, the insights so deep. It’s a fresh take on grief which enters some very unexpected territory. I’d consider it a spoiler to say more.
Review of New Animal by Ella Baxter
I’ve been very jealous of everyone in the U.K. with the physical version that I completely forgot I had been approved for the ebook through @netgalley via @panmacmillian
Wow what a book. This deals with uncomfortable subject matter such as grief and kink but in a raw way that you can’t turn away from.
This book very much reminded me of My Dark Vanessa, one of my favourites of the year, and I’m looking forward to reading more from this author.
I found the exploration of the relationships really interesting and enjoyed the language, I would’ve changed the spacing in the book as the last half felt rushed. I could’ve easily had an additional hundred pages on Amelia’s exploration of kink and her closing revelations.
Thank you for the arc and I’m looking forward to the book being properly released in the U.K. in February
Amelia isn't your average makeup artist; she has the honour of working with the dead at her family's mortuary. But for someone so acquainted with death, the loss of a loved one knocks Amelia off kilter. She learns to navigate grief in her own way, with the act of life itself - sex - helping her come to terms with her loss.
I really connected with Baxter's writing and liked how ~complicated~ you could call Amelia and how memorable the other characters' quirks are. I had to cover one of my eyes with a hand in secondhand embarrassment when reading about turning a veteran sub into a 'menstrual clown'. But that's what I love about writing and finding new authors to fawn over - the unexpected paths they lead you down. For a book about loss, I found New Animal to be awkwardly funny and really express how grief distorts our minds and behaviour. Death can really fuse you closer to your loved ones and make you more openly unapologetic about your feelings, cos life is too short not to, as Amelia realises with her two dads who could have got along to begin with. And trying new things, such as BDSM, demonstrates how out of control we can feel in the face of death, our bodies and minds off balance.
I felt a bit emotional reading Amelia's epiphany about our bodies. From beginning with her seeking one night stands to feel like a 'new animal', to ending with the tenderness at the mortuary, realising how much we put our bodies through. It made me feel connected to my own and grateful for just being alive and being able to move my body and take it to wonderful places. For a makeup artist, allowing her deceased clients to portray the life they lived rather than merely looking presentable in their caskets is quite illustrative of this manifesto for living.
While I read this via NetGalley, I've preordered the hardback as I just really adored New Animal, and can't wait for what Baxter's got in store next.
Raw, visceral, disturbing and deeply emotional examination of grief.
Amelia is working as a make-up artist at her family's funeral parlour, she prepares the deceased for a final viewing at their funeral and she loves her job. She also enjoys having sex with random men, because it makes her feel powerful. But then one day her mother suddenly and unexpectedly dies and Amelia's life is turned upside down. She runs away from her family and from her mother's funeral to her biological father, living in a remote house in Tasmania. Here, she grapples with her feelings, experimenting with kink and BDSM to find release from the crushing pain of grief.
This novel is written in a first-person narrative, so it feels like Amelia is telling the story herself, letting us in on her inner thoughts and emotions - I really appreciated this structure, it worked very well for the intimate and emotional themes running through Ella Baxter's book. What's more, I really enjoyed being in Amelia's head, her comments and impressions were very relatable (sometimes wry and almost satirical) and having that insight helped me connect with her and what she's going through. I found the juxtaposition of grief and sex in 'New Animal' truly provocative and compelling, while the language felt almost lyrical. All these aspects put together, adding a cast of unusual characters full of quirks and vices, got me hooked, disconcerted and dazzled from the first page.
New Animal follows Amelia Auriella , a make up artist in her family’s funeral parlour .
However being in the business of death does nothing to mitigate the shock of a sudden personal loss for Amelia and her free thinking family.
We follow AA as she uses casual sexual encounters as a means to feel nothing and everything .
A quirky clever and authentic piece of writing. Although some scene may be shocking to some what is the point of literature if it not to shock you once in a while .
When I think of this book the one word which screams out to me is TALENT . @mouthcake has it in abundance and I’m glad she’s sharing it with the rest of us .
A ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ read for me and a new author to add to my automatic read list .
Thank you to @netgalley , @picadorbooks and @mouthcake for the E-ARC,by far the best one yet !