May was a bit all over the place for me reading wise. Things got off to a shaky start, and I felt the onset of a slump hanging over me for much of the month, but I then went on to pick up 2 five-star reads, both of which I can see being in solid contention for my books of the year list. They were also both by women in translation, which is a cool coincidence!
I read 10 books in all throughout May, bringing my total for 2020 so far up to 51. Here are some brief thoughts on each of them, with links to my full reviews if you’d like to know more.
The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] There was lots to admire here, with Levy posing big questions about the nature of time and memory. She handles a complex narrative with skill, but I found much of it surprisingly alienating and don’t think I was in the right headspace to give it due attention.
Wave If You Can See Me by Susan Ludvigson
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] This poetry collection is focussed on illness, bereavement, and the healing power of art. The poet’s style didn’t resonate with me hugely, but there was some lovely imagery throughout.
Praising the Paradox by Tina Shumann
[ ⭐ ⭐ ] Those who enjoy free verse poetry with a stream of conscious inspired approach may take more from this collection, but sadly I found the gems to be too few and far between.
Sea Wife by Amity Gaige
[ ⭐ ⭐ ] There is lots of potential in this novel’s setup, and there are certainly lots of great themes bubbling beneath the surface, like gender roles, political divides, and latent trauma. Sadly, I felt too much time was spent meandering around these ideas without ever saying much, with the book itself unsure of what it wanted to be.
Loyalties by Delphine de Vigan, translated from the French by George Miller
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] There is so much that I adored about this understated look at the dark side of loyalty, the nature of abuse, and ingrained patriarchal structures. Compelling characters and a tense, claustrophobic atmosphere lead us to a breathless climax, and I can’t wait to read more from this author.
The Body Lies by Jo Baker
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] This clever novel is as much a thriller in its own right as it is a dissection of the genre. Focusing on women and their bodies as seen through the male gaze in genre fiction, it’s a gripping and meta read that I very much enjoyed.
The Bitch by Pilar Quintana, translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] Capturing the balmy heat of Colombia’s Pacific coast, this is a deceptively simple look at suppressed trauma, the pressures of motherhood, and man’s misguided efforts to tame nature. I appreciated a lot of what this book had to say, but felt its solid thematic foundations weren’t quite fully capitalised on.
Cold Wind by Nicola Griffith
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] This dark, folkloric short from Tor Books evokes a crisp, unsettling atmosphere to great effect, reaching an otherworldly, visually striking climax befitting of the genre. The prose itself is largely suited to the fantastical subject matter, but does feel a tad overblown at times.
Tokyo Ueno Station by Yu Miri, translated from the Japanese by Morgan Giles
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] Review to come for BookBrowse.
Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica, translated from the Spanish by Sarah Moses
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] This horrifying dystopian from Argentina is set in a speculative future, in which a virus means animal meat has become toxic to humans, and the consumption of human flesh has been legalised. It’s deeply disturbing but richly rewarding, with complex thematic commentary on everything from power dynamics to capitalism, and from the corruption of government to the role of language.
There we have it! My reads of the month were Tender is the Flesh and Loyalties. What was your favourite read in May?