Beautiful Animals by Lawrence Osborne review – compulsive reading

An encounter on a Greek island between rich holiday-makers and a migrant stranger leads to jeopardy

It’s another summer on the Greek island of Hydra, another summer among the rich – specifically, the Codrington and Haldane families. Jimmie Codrington is a British airline owner and art dealer who keeps a “famously ironic” bust of Hitler in his front room. Jimmy’s first wife died when their daughter Naomi, now in her 20s, was a teen, and now he’s married to an absurdly snobby Greek woman. The Haldanes are American, less ridiculous and a little more opaque. Their daughter Sam, feeling bored by her own independence, falls quickly under the spell of the slightly older Naomi, who is dominant, naughty, cynical.

Early in the novel, Sam thinks: “A thousand summers could be like this, each one as beautiful as the last, and still nothing worth reliving a second time.” The pair aren’t alone ...

Beautiful Animals by Lawrence Osborne review – compulsive reading

An encounter on a Greek island between rich holiday-makers and a migrant stranger leads to jeopardy

It’s another summer on the Greek island of Hydra, another summer among the rich – specifically, the Codrington and Haldane families. Jimmie Codrington is a British airline owner and art dealer who keeps a “famously ironic” bust of Hitler in his front room. Jimmy’s first wife died when their daughter Naomi, now in her 20s, was a teen, and now he’s married to an absurdly snobby Greek woman. The Haldanes are American, less ridiculous and a little more opaque. Their daughter Sam, feeling bored by her own independence, falls quickly under the spell of the slightly older Naomi, who is dominant, naughty, cynical.

Early in the novel, Sam thinks: “A thousand summers could be like this, each one as beautiful as the last, and still nothing worth reliving a second time.” The pair aren’t alone ...

Molly McCloskey: Why women still pay for adultery

Women might not be killed for their desires in novels any more, but infidelity remains a potent theme in fiction

It was only when someone who read a draft of my novel, about a woman who has an adulterous affair in the 1990s, remarked on my heroine’s “lack of shame” that I began to think more consciously about how other adulterous heroines had felt and fared. I thought: why would she be ashamed of desire? Bad behaviour, maybe, but desire?

I was well acquainted with the first (long) phase of female adultery in western literature: the phase in which this most private of acts was – particularly for women – utterly public, a threat to the social order that required a correspondingly communal punishment. I had on my shelf La Princesse de Clèves (1678) – the first novel of female adultery that had ever bewitched me – but I’d discovered it at ...

The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill review – descent into a fairytale underworld

Talented, in love and separated, two orphans search for each other in a burlesque world of violence, lust and make-believeIt is said that every novel should teach us how to read it, school us in the particular conventions to which it will adhere; and that whatever those conventions are, they should produce an internally coherent world. When I reached the scene in The Lonely Hearts Hotel where Rose, who has just miscarried, puts her dead baby in her coat pocket and goes out for a bowl of soup and I didn’t bat an eye, I knew I’d been taught how to read this novel. Heather O’Neill’s novel, longlisted for the Baileys women’s prize for fiction, begins in 1914. Rose and Pierrot, each abandoned by a teenage mother, end up at a Montreal orphanage. Rose is a rebel, theatrical and introspective. Pierrot is happy, musical, acrobatic – either a ...