Beasts is a 138 pages novella narrated by Gillian Bauer, a middle-age woman who recalls her love for her former creative writing teacher, an obsession that took place when she was a twenty-year-old college student.

It was the mid-seventies, the ideals were already dead, the Vietnam war was over and nobody had a cause anymore. What is left of these historically charged years is the sexual liberation…

Andre Harrow singles out girls from his class, and invites them at his house under the official pretext that they will become assistant to his wife, Dorcas, a sculptress whose disturbing works represents crude naked figures. Gillian, shy and pretty much inexperienced, can only begin to understand what happens at her professor’s house. Andre Harrow justifies his hidden acts to his classes by quoting D.H. Lawrence, who inspires his way of life.

When Andre finally singles Gillian out, she enters a nightmarish life out of which she can only find one issue. We discover while reading the book that not only the professor and his wife becomes beasts by letting their instincts take the lead, but the young compliant girls are ultimately dehumanized too…

As it is, what Joyce Carol Oates tried to achieve by writing Beasts was probably to shock by expressing her pessimistic views on human nature. In my opinion, the novella does not suit her story. A longer story would have resembled Justine by The Marquis de Sade and would have been utterly unoriginal. A short story would have been more suggestive and best suited for her story…  This is my first Oates’ book and it is apparent that she has developed a whole theory on the human being: Beasts is probably not the book to start with. I will probably read another Oates’ book in a different genre…

Rating: 2,5/5