Release Date: July 27, 2015
“A horror novelette about a strange woman living in luxury with her lover, but irrevocably tied to her childhood of deprivation and dark secrets in northwest England. The woman recalls the unravelling of the family upon her uncle’s release from prison.” (via Goodreads)
Fabulous Beasts opens and closes with present-day Eliza still struggling with the emotional aftermath of the horrific events of her childhood. Eliza isn’t pretty. She knows it, and so does everyone else. But her longtime lover, Georgia, loves her nonetheless. Georgia is a successful photographer who somehow manages to be prettier than her already gorgeous subjects. Eliza is a herpetologist with a remarkable ability to communicate with snakes. That isn’t her only secret, however.
As a child, Eliza, then Lola, was raised by her mother in a housing estate in a poor northern English city. Her younger cousin, Tallulah, lived with them even though her mother, Lola’s mother’s sister, lived right downstairs. For Ami, the thrill of motherhood lost its sheen early on, and Kath, already used to caring for her siblings in the absence of her own parents, took in Tallulah. But life was far from good. Although Kath never speaks about Lola’s father, she takes out her rage and frustration at him on her daughter.
When Lola is 18, her uncle Kenny is released from prison. His arrival sets in motion events that threaten to destroy Lola, Kath, and Tallulah. He is a sinister force who demonstrates his power through violence. Kenny wants something from Lola, something she’s unwilling to provide, and he’ll do whatever it takes to get it.
Did I mention Lola can turn into a snake? Oh yes, that’s right, an actual snake. She doesn’t know how or why, just that she can.
This is a dark, unsettling novelette. The horror lies not in jump scares or ghosts but in its disturbing subject matter. There are some major content warnings here – child abuse, incest, and rape – but none of it is used gratuitously or for shock value. Whatever you think you’re going to get with this novelette, by the end you’ll come away with something entirely different. I had to re-read it to pick up on the subtle clues Priya Sharma left behind.
Fabulous Beasts is family drama gone supernatural body horror. It twists into itself, each turn getting worse and worse. I’m still not sure about that final reveal, but sweet zombie jesus is it a kicker. This one is going to haunt me for a good long while.
Read the full story online.