Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor (translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes, Booker International Prize 2020)

This book is violent and upsetting and something I will never forget. Usually, by the time I finish the Booker International Prize long list, my feelings are raw, and this book brought no relief.

I don’t think it is meant to.

I read on Twitter today, the following Tweet retweeted by Fitzcarraldo Editions:

‘I was left buoyed up by Melchor’s anger, elated because she had shown me things I needed to be faced with.’ @mjohnharrison reviews HURRICANE SEASON by @fffmelchor, tr. @hughes_sophie for @GuardianBooks

I would not call what I felt, after reading this book, “buoyed up.” But, being “shown things I needed to be faced with”? Most definitely.

I know a world where men protect me. For all of my childhood, my father lived an honorable life of integrity which supported our family, and my husband does the same. I didn’t see, until I read Hurricane Season, how truly brutal some families are. I didn’t understand that the fourteen year old daughter can not simply “buck up”, gather strength, and change the trajectory of her life. It is so much more complicated than that, to overcome a mother who keeps looking to men to solve her problems, keeps getting pregnant, and expects her eldest to care for them all. Her mother looks for a savior in all the wrong places, finally bringing home a stepfather who more closely resembles a demon.

I didn’t realize the pervasiveness of drugs, and alcohol, and poverty in endless cycles without hope.

I didn’t expect pages with such violence, and profanity, that I am unwilling to leave quotes here as I normally do. They are admittedly powerful. They are also horrific.

For the way that this novel will remain in my mind, it cannot be dismissed as I may have wished to do with a low, and scornful, score. It would be turning away from a dreadful reality, back into my narrow fantasy that life can be made into what we want it to be.

9 thoughts on “Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor (translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes, Booker International Prize 2020)

  1. I’ve read a lot about this book, including M John Harrison’s review, and feel that it’s something I really need to read. I’m not quite sure I’m in the right place at the moment, but your powerful review makes me think maybe I never will be – perhaps I need to face up to that too and just take the plunge. It certainly sounds like a literary eye-opener.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I heard a member of the official Jury say that they wanted books which made you think about them, and if that is a criteria for being on the short list, Hurricane Season certainly warrants a place. It is not a book I would consider having great literary merit, other than its incredible ability to bring to life the despicable lives these people in a poverty struck town in Mexico are living. It has made me think, “How does one escape such an environment?”, and for that I have no easy answer.


  2. Not for me, I admire your courage for being such an open vessel to whatever is on the list, my life is all the better for practicing discernment when it comes to news media and literature. This one definitely not for me. Life is already tough enough.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not sure you could say I had courage for reading this, as much as determination and a commitment to the Shadow Jury. In fact, I have been wondering if I my life, my attitude, is too sheltered. If I am too judgmental. Certainly I have worked hard for every blessing I enjoy, but I have also been given much in my family and education. It’s so interesting to think of what we do with what we’ve been given, or, not given.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve been wondering about this one myself. I love Fitzcarraldo’s books but I think the brutality would be too much for me, particularly at the moment. I salute the book and those who can read it, but I really don’t think I’m in the best place for this right now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fitzcarraldo Editions consistently print fascinating literature. Some of it is indeed violent, or at the least, alarming, and yet I end up feeling better read once I’ve finished them. I can’t stay in my narrow world, as I tried to say at the conclusion of this post. My world is such a little piece of the bigger world around me, and that is precisely why I love translated literature so much: for its ability to open my eyes. That said, this might not be the time for such heavy, emotionally laden books. I know Frances said she is “exhausted”, and she has a much stouter heart than I.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: My Personal Six for the Booker International Short List | Dolce Bellezza

  5. I’ve been interested in discovering this writer but I have to be honest, right now I just don’t think I can pick up this book. I’m having such a hard time reading and am looking for easy books. But I will get to this one eventually!


  6. Pingback: Books Read In 2020 – Dolce Bellezza

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