Booker International Longlist 2020: Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor
Book 8 from the longlist read and reviewed by Bookworm and Tracy. Where will this end up in the standings?
Details from the Booker Website: Hurricane Season opens with the macabre discovery of a decomposing body in a small waterway on the outskirts of La Matosa, a village in rural Mexico. It soon becomes apparent that the body is that of the local witch, who is both feared by the men and relied upon by the women, helping them with love charms and illegal abortions.
Mirroring the structure of Gabriel García Márquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold, the novel goes back in time, recounting the events which led to La Matosa’s witch’s murder from several perspectives. Hurricane Season quickly transcends its detective story constraints: the culprits are named early on in the narrative, shifting the question to why rather than who. Through the stories of Luismi, Norma, Brando and Munra, Fernanda Melchor paints a portrait of lives governed by poverty and violence, machismo and misogyny, superstition and prejudice. Written with a brutal lyricism that is as affecting as it is enthralling, Hurricane Season, Melchor’s first novel to appear in English, is a formidable portrait of Mexico and its demons.
Fernanda Melchor, born in Veracruz, Mexico, in 1982, is a writer and journalist who lives and works in Puebla. In 2013 she published a collection of short stories and and a novel: Aqui no es Miami and Falsa liebre (both with Almadia), followed by Hurricane Season in 2017.
Sophie Hughes is a literary translator from Spanish to English, known for her translations of writers such as Laia Jufresa, Rodrigo Hasbún, and José Revueltas. In 2019 she was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize for her translation of Alia Trabucco Zerán’s The Remainder. She has also been longlisted for the Best Translated Book Award (2017; 2018), the ALTA National Translation Award in Prose (2018) and the PEN Translation Prize (2018). In 2017 she received a PEN/Heim Translation Grant and in 2018 she was named one of the Arts Foundation “25” for her contribution to the field of literary translation. Sophie is the co-editor of the anthology Europa28: Visions for the Future in association with Womarts and Hay Festival and published by Comma Press, and she is currently working with the Stephen Spender Trust taking creative translation to UK classrooms to promote language learning in schools.
Book Worm’s Thoughts: I am not sure what I was expecting when I started this book but it wasn’t what I got. I don’t think this is a bad book it just wasn’t for me. I found the use of swear words to be excessive and while I have no problem with the diversity of the characters it felt contrived rather than a natural part of the story and looking back on it the whole story doesn’t make sense.
What I did like was the way we start at the murder of the witch and then work our way back through the past to find out who killed her and more importantly why she was murdered.
None of the characters were likeable and perhaps that was the point but as a reader I find it harder to connect with a book when I can’t connect with the characters.
Writing Quality: 2/5
Character Development: 2/4
Plot Development: 2/4
Overall Enjoyment: 1/2
Tracy’s Thoughts: This book had so much potential. Too bad it just didn’t pull together. Part of my disappointment was the translation. No North American uses the “c” word to describe a man, and only uses it toward a woman as a huge insult. The direct interpretation- at least what I googled- should have been what the president of the US likes to grab women by. But if the language had been less offensive, this wouldn’t have been an issue.
The witch is killed and her murderers are known right away. What this tries to do is follow the lives of a few of the murderers, and the girlfriend of one of them. Characters are blurred by their offensive acts and language and the plot goes off the rails. I really wanted to enjoy this, but it just wasn’t cohesive enough for me. There were some moments of brilliant writing, but not enough to save it.
Writing quality: 2/5
Character development: 3/4
Overall enjoyment: 0.5/2
The Eighth Life 18.5
Memory Police 15.5
Faces on the Tip of my Tongue 14.17
Mac and his Problem 12.5
The Discomfort of Evening 11
Hurricane Season 9.75
Have your read this one? Tell us what you thought of it in the comments