Beautiful Animals: A Novel
Naomi Codrington, the rich daughter of Jimmie and stepdaughter of Phaine, has spent summers on the Greek island of Hydra since her childhood. Now, at 24, the island is both a place of nostalgic melancholy and an escape from the loss of her job at prestigious law firm in London. Her relationship with her father is at best strained, she being a “negative image” of him as one family friend remarks. She is even less in tune with Phaine, and so Naomi is prone to much time alone exploring the island, away from the people who know her best, which isn’t saying much.
The genius of Beautiful Animals lies in the relationship Naomi strikes up with the stunning American, Sam, a girl still blooming into adulthood at 21, the kind of creature who steals the light in every room. She isn’t more desirable than Naomi, exactly, but she has a freshness the older girl lacks and seems to covet. Together, the two become embroiled in a plot that invigorates as quickly as it endangers them when they discover a refugee awash on the shores of the island, an Arabic man named Faoud trying to flee the horrors of Syria.
Lawrence Osborne has written a brilliant book that reflects the very real struggles of the modern world while echoing our most ancient struggles as people. Equally a novel of difficult familial relationships, political and moral relativism, and an exploration of malevolence, Beautiful Animals is that rare kind of book that demands a second or even third reading, the kind of book you simply have to discuss with others as you debate which characters to defend or condemn.