The New Animal

2022 - Shortlisted


Judges' Comments 

A work of dark humour, Ella Baxter’s novel dives into the messy but also liberating ways that grief manifests for a young woman who is a make-up artist in her family’s funeral business. Faced with her mother’s sudden death, Amelia’s usual strategies to deflect the grief of others don’t work — sex with strangers, contemplation of a friend’s place of suicide — and she flees her mother’s funeral to her semi-estranged father in Tasmania.  

New Animal is about a young woman’s relationship with her own body. It shows the strange embodiments of grief and love within a contemporary sexuality in which a woman’s body may have both power and agency, and also be subject to violence enacted by herself or others. The writing is precise, filled with moments of comic relief, and propulsive as Amelia attempts to both flee and meet pain head on. Introducing a compelling new voice, the novel builds towards an ending of stunning tenderness.