... propulsive, fiercely confident ... To her great credit, Taddeo resists the pressure—rampant these days—to craft a likable, 'relatable' female narrator. In Animal she gleefully does the opposite ... Taddeo can write a killer sentence ... She’s at her best when exploring the murky, sometimes twisted relations between men and women ... If all this sounds far-fetched, it is. Taddeo isn’t a subtle writer. But what she lacks in nuance, she makes up for in bravado, psychological acuity and sly wit. Joan’s voice is so sharp and magnetic that the reader will follow her anywhere—even to the dark and increasingly unbelievable depths her creator sends her ... The world of Animal is relentlessly bleak. If its particulars don’t always make sense, its values at least remain consistent ... Writing a novel is a shell game—an elaborate con in which the author aims to dazzle with what she does well, in hopes of distracting the reader from what she can’t do at all. Taddeo’s prose glitters. She has a gift for aphorism, the observation that astonishes. She is less successful at imagining the shape of a life. As the story unfolds, Joan’s depravity has a numbing effect, and the unremitting degeneracy of the male characters begins to seem didactic. The intention seems less to shine a light on human nature than to cast it in funhouse shapes ... Taddeo is writing with all her stars out, though they shone a little brighter when life itself supplied the plot.
Animal will confirm [Taddeo's] status as a pre-eminent channeller of women’s interior lives ... She is among a new generation of authors coming to prominence — novelists such as Raven Leilani, Leïla Slimani, and Ottessa Moshfegh. Theirs are no-fucks-given, visceral, pared-back narratives that unspool the generational trauma that women have had to hold in and endure for centuries ... Come to it fresh, and savour a cleverly constructed psychological thriller that depends on the accretion of casually tossed in details about Joan’s past and hints about the future ... Joan drives across America with her life in boxes, and here Taddeo displays the deep-dive detail at which she excels, her keen journalist’s eye that seeks 'colour' and can itemise it ... This book is a raging, funny and fierce thriller with a protagonist whose life force, against extraordinary odds — always in the gaze and sometimes the grasp of predatory, abusive men — is a thing of wonder. Taddeo is a folklorist of our performative age. Her fiction employs the same propulsive storytelling we saw in Three Women, itself a feat that owes a lot to the oral tradition.
... alarming ... All the harping on darkness—blood, bone, hate and the rest—combined with a rather awkwardly fancy prose style initially makes Animal feel like a teenager’s 'look at me, don’t look at me' howl, written on a satchel or ring binder where grown-ups will definitely see it. However, as we accompany mad Joan on her journey of reckoning with her past, something more interesting emerges ... Taddeo has a sharp eye for the pretentious coffee places and farmers’ markets of yoga-mad California, and a beautifully painterly way of immersing us in the sunburnt scrub and spiky rough land of Topanga canyon ... although Joan’s story is hard to read and sometimes annoying, it’s about time some writer was brave enough to take the present iteration of man-hating, ball it up with a healthy dose of Freudian theory and splatter it all over the phoney wellness culture that promises women so much and delivers so little. This cross and sexy book smacks of a literary career in its adolescence but Taddeo has the guts and big ideas to become something great.