Reminiscent of Gaétan Soucy’s The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, Audrée Wilhelmy’s The Body of the Beasts is a startling, gorgeously written novel that tells the story of the Boryas family, who mind a lighthouse and live in isolation until their lives are altered when young Noé arrives in Sitjaq after fifteen years of wandering.
Her dresses are torn, her manners are savage. Noé marries into the family and bears seven children that she leaves to the care of Sevastien-Benedikt, an elder and kind of giant on whose hunting and gathering the family depends. Noé then moves into a cabin on her own and covers the walls with drawings that explain her mysterious life.
The extended family’s curious and enthralling descent into a weirdly carnal, primal existence reaches its disturbing, singular apogee in the revelatory life of twelve-year-old Mie, one of Noé’s daughters, who is able to borrow at will the body of mammals, birds, fish, and insects. Her shape-shifting allows her to know the world, but only to a point. When her awakening body starts to intrigue her, she shamelessly asks her uncle Osip to show her “how humans do sex,” something she has as yet only briefly experienced through the animals whose bodies she has borrowed.
The Body of the Beasts is a tour de force, driven by uninhibited and sensuous writing, a book that explores an aspect of the human condition too often ignored — our animal nature.