Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Review: BEAUTIFUL ANIMALS, by Lawrence Osborne
Beautiful Animals lives in that yummy space between literary fiction and the crime novel. Set on the Greek island of Hydra and among the fashionable rich, author Lawrence Osborne tells the story of Naomi Codrington, a young woman retreating to her parents' world of privilege after a humiliating professional setback, and Faoud, a Syrian refugee who washes up on Naomi's playground.
The reader feels right away that there is something toxic in Naomi's idle boredom, which preys on her and leads her to temptation. Crucial to this alchemy is Naomi's burgeoning friendship with Sam, an altogether ordinary young woman spending time with her parents. The women form a bond that just teeters on sexual but never quite loses its balance; both become infatuated with Faoud, a handsome young man whose origins are murky but seems to come from a privileged background himself.
In Beautiful Animals, Osborne treads familiar ground- what happens when the ultrarich mix with the poor and desperate. Faoud is a man of Naomi's own creation; she creates a narrative for him in which she herself will figure prominently, and soon Naomi writes the chapter she thinks will make for him a happy ending. Naomi lives with her wealthy father and stepmother, whom she disdains, and she concocts a plan to help Faoud at what she is sure will be little cost. Of course these things never go as planned, and soon the costs climb higher than anyone could have imagined.
I would love to see a movie made of this book. Osborne's writing is so atmospheric and evocative; you can feel the heat of the sun, the salt of the water and stain of blood as you read. Later on Osborne introduces a kind of detective character and the book wakes from its delicious paresse and takes on a crime-novel pace, then settles in for a low-key, dark finish. Beautiful Animals would be a wonderful choice for the literary reader's beach bag, a great follow up for fans of Katie Kitamura's A Separation or similar. Lawrence Osborne never disappoints.
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review.