Animals Eat Each Other by Elle Nash is less of a novel and more of a sensory explosion. Originally published by Dzanc in the US in 2018, the rights to Animals were acquired by 404 Ink and the novel was published in the UK in May 2019. Based on their track record, it is clear 404 Ink have a knack for publishing books which go on to become sensations in their own right and they seem set to continue riding the wave of success with Nash’s hurricane of a debut.
Animals follows a young woman without a name who becomes embroiled in an intense three-way relationship with Matt, a Satanist, and his girlfriend Frankie, a new mother. After a chance meeting in the shop where the protagonist works, an obsessive, highly sexual liaison of rigid parameters and emotional detachment ensues. Matt and Frankie nickname the protagonist ‘Lilith’, in reference to The Other Woman in the Garden of Eden. As Lilith weaves herself into the complex lives of Matt and Frankie, a web of jealousy, self-hatred, self-harm and deceit unfolds until she is forced to consider what she really wants and what she is willing to sacrifice to achieve it.
From the very first line, Animals grabs you by the shoulders, forces you into a chair and demands that you pay attention. Nash’s frank, pared-back prose is searing and honest, so much so that the entire novel has the aura of a friend baring their soul to you. And this is exactly what Lilith does. Damaged, distant and addicted to pain, Lilith pours her heart out to the reader, refusing to dress anything up for the sake of decency, but also refusing to invite pity or sympathy.
As a result, we are forced to view the beauty of the world through a twisted lens. We meet a newborn baby whose parents are first cousins. We are made to focus on the masochistic pain of Lilith getting a tattoo instead of the beauty of the tattoo itself. Indeed, Matt has two words tattooed onto his arms: ‘solve’ and ‘coagula’, dissolving and coming together, which serves as an apposite summation of the novel itself.
Animals is slim tome totalling only 150 pages, but what is lacks in length it makes up for in grit. This is a frank, open and unashamed exploration of desire, lust and obsession and how this can both influence and wreck the relationships we have with the people around us. The novel comes together beautifully, and by the end, both we as readers and Lilith herself are undone. Solve et coagula in a nutshell.