Desire and addiction. Freedom and control. Pleasure and pain. Love can often be oxymoronic or even contradictory, and Elle Nash’s Animals Eat Each Other is an exploration of these contradictions at every turn. When our unnamed 19-year-old protagonist falls into a lust filled push and pull with couple Matt and Frances she prides herself on her ability not to get attached. It’s just sex – or so she thinks. Yet, in the whirlwind that encompasses their relationship she gives herself over to them completely, following their strict rules and allowing them to christen her Lilith. Her loss of identity is tied completely with her addiction to them, she is hopelessly entangled in a web of seduction and control. Now, with the cracks beginning to show in the carefully constructed relationship between the three Lilith has some choices to make, between Matt and Frances, between pain and pleasure, and between her buried self and Lilith – if there’s any difference left.
At only 150 pages long Nash’s debut novel may be short, but it’s punchy as hell. This short narrative explodes with electric prose on the page, it certainly isn’t lacking in impact. At times raw and dark, but tantalizingly compulsive nonetheless, Animals Eat Each Other is bitterly rich like dark chocolate; feelings and sensations just ooze from the page and you can’t help yourself from wanting more. Nash’s words inflict goosebumps and you can feel your hairs standing on end as you read, a case in point that words can make you feel physical sensations. I almost don’t care what she’s writing about, I just want to see what her words can make me feel next.
For me that’s the biggest thing about Animals Eat Each Other; I wasn’t always as invested as I could have been in the plot. Maybe I’m just prudish and struggled with the focus on the physical throughout, maybe I needed more of an inward journey from the nameless girl, to be honest maybe I simply needed a longer book to get into the characters’ lives more. The story itself at times felt lacking to me. Yet, whatever the plot lacked was made up for in the sheer skill crafting the words. I can appreciate good writing when I see it, even if the story itself isn’t to my taste.
The fact that this is only Nash’s debut novel fills me with excitement and anticipation. I, for one, cannot wait to see what else she produces in the future.
Animals Eat Each Other is out in May 2019, pre-order it directly from 404Ink here: https://www.404ink.com/store/elle-nash-animals-eat-each-other