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* Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction, Shortlist
From the Readings announcement, on New Animal by Ella Baxter:
"This confident and gritty debut about a young make-up artist working in a mortuary takes the reader places they will never expect. Witty, emotional and raw, Amelia’s story is also laugh-out-loud funny, somewhat bizarre (in a good way), and unlike anything else you have ever read."
"Baxter’s prose is a living thing, wild and snarling, its jagged claws and honed teeth unforgiving and relentless. Amelia stokes empathy as a woman seeking absolution down dead ends. Her codependency and repression are addressed in frank terms—“Other people have always been the canary in the mine for me”—and every beat of dark comedy is paired with an empathetic wince as Amelia forces herself past her limits. New Animal is at turns graphic, disturbing, and tender—in other words: human."
—Danielle Ballantyne, Foreword
"In her incredible debut, Baxter combines dark humor with a complex protagonist and bold narration to both astound and devastate her readers. Amelia is a memorable heroine who is raw with grief as she struggles with and explores the paradox of finding harmony in the dichotomy of life and death."
—Emily Park, Booklist
"Ella Baxter's New Animal is a raw, arresting debut, toothy and surprising—a novel that manages to deeply consider the molten core of human experience (read: death, sex, memory, grief) while also poking fun at it. The result is an affecting, sometimes alarming balancing act that will worm its way inside your consciousness and absolutely refuse to leave."
—Emily Temple, author of The Lightness
"New Animal is a wonderfully tender book. Ella Baxter doesn't shy away from any of the messiness of humanity, choosing instead to lean in, hard, and unpack all the ways that grief breaks us down and ultimately reshapes us. It's feral and raw, laugh out loud funny in parts, and absolutely the kind of family mess I love best. Baxter is a delightful writer and New Animal is a hell of a read.”
—Kristen Arnett, New York Times-bestselling author of With Teeth and Mostly Dead Things
"New Animal is filled with death and darkness, yet Baxter's prose feels so very alive. A novel that's core is ultimately one of hope, a complex, heartfelt ballad to the strange, sloppy ways we find ourselves growing into the people we were meant to become."
—Jean Kyoung Frazier, author of Pizza Girl
"How Baxter manages to make the journey of a motherless funerary mortician surrendering to the Tasmanian BDSM scene feel universal is testament to what this unique novel has to say about the effects of mourning on our bodies and our souls. Raw, courageous, and—somehow—super fun."
—Courtney Maum, author of Touch and Costalegre
“New Animal is morbidly life-affirming, hilariously grief-stricken, sexy and lonely and lovely. Like a first date that goes way deep, like a coffin buried not quite deep enough. Ella Baxter’s prose is an exciting new animal I won’t soon forget."
—Hilary Leichter, author of Temporary
"I loved this macabre, mordant, and very moving book. New Animal surprised and comforted me with its deft investigations of grief, power, and self, and with its beautiful prose. This is an economical novel that packs a major emotional punch."
—Lydia Kiesling, author of The Golden State
"I inhaled Ella Baxter's New Animal, which is the sort of animal that is all spine, all teeth. The deftness of her prose, which is so damn funny, along with such a poignant and true and entertaining story, make this a book that positively glitters. Ella Baxter's New Animal is an animal that is so animal it's human."
—Lindsay Hunter, author of Eat Only When You're Hungry
"[New Animal is] a story about sex, connection and, comically, the Tasmanian BDSM scene, that is by turns profound and funny."
—Kylie Northover, The Age
"New Animal is a rendering of a complex moment in time—a portrait of a young woman at the precipice of great personal change and growth—and is moving in its portrayal."
—Georgia Brough, Books + Publishing
"A stunning, heartbreakingly funny novel about sex, death, grief, and running away."
—Steffanie Tan, Pedestrian
"Most striking was Baxter’s sincerity and thoughtful, nuanced approach to storytelling."
—Giulia Brugliera, Fashion Journal
"New Animal is about death and death adjacent things, but it feels flooded with life. Same with the whole ‘devastating/hilarious’ thing: it’s not a balance of two states, but an exploration of their simultaneity."
—Mia Walsch, Archer
"Ella Baxter’s debut novel New Animal is a soulful and intimate comedy that fearlessly questions our attitudes towards death and sex. The novel’s profound descriptions of the body provide an anchor for Baxter’s honest and tender depictions of grief, which are contrasted with amateur BDSM experiences."
—Karen Lowry, ArtsHub
"New Animal is an excellent exploration of how grief can impact a young person’s life."
—Linda Godfrey, Newtown Review of Books
"Ella Baxter’s debut novel New Animal introduces a gritty, honest and complex protagonist in the form of Amelia, an embalmer working as a make-up artist at her mother’s mortuary. Baxter has created a dark, beautiful, wild and engaging read with an incredible ending to match."
—Izzy White, Readings