Positive3AMDel Amo’s novel is a taxonomy of sorts: of smell, yes, but also of cruelty and of historical change ... Fortunately there is no question, as Henry James said of Balzac, of the historian overwhelming the novelist: Del Amo’s focus on the family is relentless, and we only witness historical changes in so far as they impinge on the central clan ... If Del Amo the historian does not overwhelm Del Amo the novelist, then Del Amo the butcher might ... physicality is unrelenting. Del Amo’s Puy-Larroque...spews with pig excrement, rat urine, stagnant water and bloated innards. And yet, for all their foulness, these passages never overpower the story: they are the story ... It is the story of an infected society, of the transmission of cruelty from generation to generation; human, animal, land bound in corruption and woundedness ... Buried within the cruelty is a more elegiac novel about the irretrievable past ... Del Amo, working with the history-drenched soil of Gers, has been given mud and turned it into perfume.