Inside a luxury housing complex, two misfit teenagers sneak around and get drunk. Franco Andrade, lonely, overweight, and addicted to porn, obsessively fantasizes about seducing his neighbor—an attractive married woman and mother—while Polo dreams about quitting his grueling job as a gardener within the gated community and fleeing his overbearing mother and their narco-controlled village. Each facing the impossibility of getting what he thinks he deserves, Franco and Polo hatch a mindless and macabre scheme.
Paradais is both more compact and more cogent [than Hurricane Season]. Rhythm and lexis work in tandem to produce a savage lyricism. The translator Sophie Hughes marvellously matches the author in her pursuit of a new cadence ... From its first sentence, in fact, Paradais feels rhythmically propelled towards a violent climax. Full stops occur rarely enough to seem meaningful, Melchor using long lines of unbroken narrative to reel in her terrible ending ... The author wants to understand the violence, not merely condemn it ... The novel’s language, meanwhile, is both high-flown and street-smart, strewn with Veracruzian slang, the odd made-up word and many eye-watering expletives ... Pressure builds remorselessly to a dreadful climax. It is an extraordinary feat of control, making Fernanda Melchor’s exceptional novel into a contemporary masterpiece.
... disturbing ... [Melchor's] translator for both novels, Sophie Hughes, deserves immense credit for capturing the vitality of the prose. But fair warning that this book teems with violence: graphic and aggressive sexual fantasies, anti-gay slurs, incest, murder, torture. If you’re new to Melchor’s work, it might take several pages to adjust. Her sentences contain more clauses than seemingly feasible; single paragraphs run for pages and pages. The visual effect is daunting — an unbroken wall of text — and would perhaps be off-putting if the writing weren’t so seductive. Once you’re acclimated to both the style and the sheer rancor of the prose, you’ll notice other things: flourishes, the attention to the natural world, poetic turns of phrase, shrewd sketches of the indignities of menial labor ... Melchor’s Miltonian talent is imbuing 'evil' with psychological complexity ... the stroke of genius here is cleaving one monster into two.
With a nimble command of the novel’s technical resources and an uncanny grasp of the irrational forces at work in society, the [Paradais and Hurricane Season] navigate a reality riven by violence, race, class, and sex. And they establish Melchor, who was born in 1982, as the latest of Faulkner’s Latin American inheritors, and among the most formidable ... Paradais is a portrait of an ailing society inured to its own cruelty, and employs long paragraphs and supple sentences, always alive to the rhythms of speech. But the new novel departs from the previous one in important ways: it is more contained, less daring, less ambitious; it is, in a peculiar way, more reader-friendly ... Paradais is a study of misogyny. But Melchor is primarily a novelist, not a journalist, and there are no concessions here to any kind of reportorial completeness. We never get to know Señora Marián as anything other than Franco’s object of desire ... The novel stays stubbornly within the vantage of the two friends who plan to attack her; its narrative choices mimic their highly circumscribed empathy. Since they don’t care who Señora Marián is, in other words, the novel doesn’t care, either. Melchor must have been aware of the risks of this decision: if the novel doesn’t care, why should the reader? ... Melchor seems fascinated by the gratuitousness of violence, by the absence of any sense of responsibility.