Francis King’s 1970 novel A Domestic Animal is the story of Antonio Valli, a brilliant young Italian philosopher, who arrives to do a year’s research at a well-to-do university. He lodges with Dick Thompson, a successful middle-aged novelist, and his good looks and impulsive yet immensely likeable character soon have Dick captivated.
Valli is someone who needs to be admired and loved and has an insatiable craving for attention from everyone he meets; he needs an audience to perform to and he finds this at the university, but especially in Dick’s company. It is not long before Dick Thompson has fallen completely in love with his charming – but very heterosexual – lodger. What follows is an ill-fated relationship that can only end in disaster, but in A Domestic Animal King has created a novel of bitter longing and painful complexities.