MixedThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)... this is not a feminist novel, even if the abused are all women. Nor is it an uplifting triumph-over-disability story ... [Yuna\'s] vocabulary develops somewhat, but not her understanding, for the novel’s wager is to recount moral and physical violence with impregnable naivety – a cynical authorial jest, I felt, rather than a mark of empathy with the disabled.
RaveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)Watling’s narrative, inserting vivid glimpses of the conflict to situate her shuffling of a deck of characters who themselves embodied complex and evolving ideas, is expertly balanced ... Rather than arbitrate such intractable questions, Watling lays them out, reflectively and empathetically, via her characters.
Fernanda Melchor, trans. by Sophie Hughes
RaveNew Left ReviewLife’s blights are always conveyed from within her characters’ minds, mostly in free indirect style, mixed with direct or reported speech. Melchor has created a lusciously carnal brand of orality (as she has pointed out, few would understand the way Veracruzans really talk). One novel has no paragraph breaks at all, and her sentences can be extremely long, in an overarching past tense that makes a change from the primacy of the present in contemporary fiction ... If her work risks airlessness with its identity of form and content – violent experience expressed in violent language – it makes up for this with an irresistible propulsive energy ... reads more easily than its predecessor, lacking Hurricane’s bewildering profusion. But it is slighter: the narrator is eaten by resentment, something necessarily repetitive ... their refusal to comfort or spare the reader in any way is what makes them so exciting seen from an Anglo-American panorama where the redemptive and uplifting threaten to kill us with kindness.
Mariana Enriquez, tr. Megan McDowell
RaveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)... while it certainly is dark, and darkly funny at times, I found it less delicious than desolate: a plunge into the pathologies of modern Argentina in which the marvellous only underlines the misery ... That history adds bitter realism to her multiple occult, gore and fantasy influences in the service of feminist anger against power and impunity, of which the dictatorship was, she has said, just an extreme form ... Enríquez’s unadorned style (in Megan McDowell’s clear translation), proves ideal for the evocation of anguish, mostly that of women, alongside the ghosts, zombies, malignant spirits, black magic and cruel families essential to fairy tales ... More powerful is when the supernatural appears as the materialization of some unspeakable inner pain ... In their emptiness and longing, the defiant fans belong with the young people Enríquez brings unforgettably to life, or the half-life that is their lot.
Mercè Rodoreda, Trans. by Martha Tennent
PositiveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)This is a romantic, wistful novel, with self-referential touches, lacking the harshness of the better-known Time of the Doves (1962) or Camellia Street (1966). What it shares with them is an impressionistic first-person voice that tries to build reality from scraps of always incomplete experience. Its plain elegance is nicely caught by the translators Maruxa Relaño and Martha Tennent ... Through half-glimpsed events, judicious eavesdropping, kitchen gossip and stray confidences made to the narrator, a tragedy takes shape and breaks as inevitably as a wave formed far back in the ocean – water being a symbol of death, as flowers embody care for life ... the novel transcends its central melodrama ... One charm is the peculiarity of the people filtered through the narrator’s mild observations ... While atmospherically it feels like the Symbolist 1890s, the jacket blurb sets the novel in the 1920s. Maybe. There are rather too many cars and phones, and a building boom in Barcelona, and the Mirós are expensive and painted in Mallorca (where the artist moved in 1956). Indeterminacy at least conveys the universality of transitional times.
Alvaro Enrigue, Trans. by Natasha Wimmer
RaveThe Washington PostWhat makes the novel so enthralling is the intimate humanity of its characters. Enrigue demystifies them using a rich, baroque naturalism, cut by flippancy and goofy jokes ... Throughout this mercurial novel, playing fast and loose with facts lets richer truths about the world emerge.