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This cynical vision — characters without sympathy in a world without morality — fails as comedy. “Humour” originally referred to the fluids that keep humans alive; Enter the Aardvark is humourless in that it is both lifeless as well as unfunny. The few good jokes are those that ring true to life, such as when Wilson, a gay Republican confused by identity politics, quips: “LGBT sounds like something you’d order in a diner with mayo”. The rest of the time, not even Anthony’s use of second-person narration, which skilfully throws you into Wilson’s thoughts, can make you care about him.
What begins as a topical takedown of the American political system deepens into a hugely enjoyable romp through history – and all because of a stuffed aardvark. A closeted Republican congressman illegally takes possession of said animal and as we learn of the Victorian naturalist who originally found it, the two timelines pleasingly mirror each other, broadening into tales of forbidden love and career-ending scandal. Madcap and satirical without ever being flippant, Anthony’s novel is totally unrealistic yet completely truthful.
Light on its feet, utilising second-person narration to great effect, Enter the Aardvark is reminiscent of Lionel Shriver’s recent sharply cynical novel, The Mandibles, while its trenchant satire echoes Tom Rachman’s much overlooked story collection, Basket of Deplorables, in which the shallow cruelties of Trump’s presidency are eviscerated. Ultimately, though, Anthony’s voice is all her own: deliciously astute, fresh and terminally funny.