Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor: A review

Oh, my, this was hard to read! It is an unrelenting verbal torrent of barbarity, trauma, and unrelieved evil written by its author in the grip of what feels like white-hot ferocity. Melchor is an acclaimed Mexican writer and this is her first book that has been translated into English, which is how I read it. My grasp of Spanish was not up to the task. Melchor's theme is the misogyny which seems endemic in Mexican society and the unthinkable violence against women that flows from it. The women characters in her novel are routinely abused, beaten, raped, and murdered and it seems that there is little consequence to the perpetrators. Thus, the understandable source of the writer's white-hot ferocity.

She tells us a story of the Witch; that's how she is known to locals. She is actually the Young Witch. Her mother, the Old Witch, is dead, but before she died, rumor had it that she had seduced and killed an old gentleman and his riches all came to her and are now hidden somewhere in the house where her daughter, the Young Witch, still lives. All this imagined great wealth elicits the envy and resentment of her neighbors.

But although they may resent or even hate her, under cover of darkness they come as supplicants seeking her help. Women who want help ridding themselves of unwanted pregnancies, jilted wives who want revenge against their wayward husbands and the husbands' paramours, and young men who have heard rumors that the Witch will pay for sex - they all beat a path to her door to present their pleas. 

All of this passion, of course, is destined to end in tragedy. The Witch ends up dead in an irrigation ditch, one of the hundreds of yearly victims of "femicide" in her country. 

Matosa, the village where all this horror takes place, is a cluster of cinder block shacks surrounded by cane fields. It is near the city of "Villagarbosa" which is Melchor's pseudonym for Veracruz. There is little work here and residents eke out a living from those who travel the highway, serving the sugar cane workers, truckers, drug traffickers, and the engineers traveling to the nearby oil fields. The atmosphere of the town is fraught with anxiety and dread as everyone in it is just one step away from becoming someone's victim.

The murder at the center of the story is examined from the perspective of four different characters: Luismi, a drug-addled former lover of the Witch; Luismi's cousin Yesenia who is one of the abused women who populate this story; Brando, a "park rat" who is an associate of Luismi; and finally Norma, a pregnant 13-year-old who is fleeing her pedophile stepfather and is taken in by Luismi and later assisted to an abortion by the Witch. All of the characters are in some way connected to Luismi who is in many ways a loathsome but also pitiable Melchor creation.

Melchor's writing is, as I at first described it, a torrent of words, reminding one, in fact, of the torrential rains accompanying hurricanes. The hurricane season of her creation features run-on sentences that sometimes go on for pages. Her language is lurid and filled with a profanity that seems to fit her subject matter. I find it very difficult to rate the book; I found it so hard to read that I'm afraid I'm not doing it justice. The jurors of the International Booker Prize didn't have my difficulty; it is shortlisted for the 2020 award. Oh, well...

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Comments

  1. This sounds like a very powerful book. I think that literature sometimes needs to be disturbing as
    ,unfortunately it is a reflection of the real world. With that, I would probably find this difficult to read. As I get older I have gotten more squeamish about this stuff.

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    1. I think it is a brilliant bit of writing and expressing truth, but it is often painful to read.

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  2. First off, you've got more guts than I do to read a book like this! I usually go for 'fluffy' or books that make me smile. I could not handle this one but it does sound like it's got a strong message and that is something I can applaud!

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    1. I'd say it is curiosity and a desire to expand my reading horizons rather than guts.

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  3. After reading the 1st paragraph of your review, I'm not sure I can read this book!! It sounds well written, but too dark!

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    1. There is no doubt that Melchor is an amazing writer and I admire her willingness to take on this difficult subject matter.

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  4. Whew! I guess I might try this one someday. If only to listen to a woman who has the courage to explore this part of life. Good for you on your effort to expand your reading horizons.

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    1. If you do decide to read it, I think you will appreciate her writing.

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  5. Wow thanks for the report on this one ... I have heard of the author's name ... was recommended I think. It looks like a very strong cup of coffee ... I will keep it on the radar.

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    1. As difficult as this book was for me, I am really in awe of Melchor's writing talent. I hope more of her books will be translated into English.

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