#BlogTour #BookReview Only May by Carol Lovekin @RandomTTours @honno

Only May BT PosterWelcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Only May by Carol Lovekin. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and for Honno for my digital review copy.

Only May CoverAbout the Book

I give you fair warning, if you’re planning on lying to me, don’t look me in the eye.

It’s May’s 17th birthday – making the air tingle with a tension she doesn’t fully understand. But she knows her mother and her aunt are being evasive; secrets are being kept.

Like her grandmother before her, May has her own magic: the bees whisper to her as they hover in the garden … the ghosts chatter in the graveyard. And she can’t be fooled by a lie.

She becomes determind to find out what is being kept from her. But when May starts to uncover her own story, she threatens to bring her mother and aunt’s carefully constructed family to the edge of destruction…

Format: Paperback (288 pages)    Publisher: Honno
Publication date: 18th May 2022 Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

Find Only May on Goodreads

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My Review

I was first introduced to Carol Lovekin’s writing when I read her novel Wild Spinning Girls in February 2020.  Like that earlier novel, Only May explores the impact secrets can have on family relationships.

I admired the author’s ability to create atmosphere whether that’s the birdsong-filled woodland that surrounds May’s family’s cottage or the bedroom of Billy, her disabled father. ‘The silence in the room was a void filled with the dust of distress.’ There are some wonderful descriptive passages and striking imagery. ‘Twilight falls, soft as a feather, slow as mist. My day fades, forgets its business and I follow.’ I especially liked the description of May’s hair as ‘ribbon-resistant and reckless’.  Inventive touches include headings signalling breaks in the text being phrases drawn from the passages that follow, for example ‘A curious and singular hotel’ or ‘Peas in a pod’.

May is a young woman with a gift: ‘I’m the one who sees beyond the glint in your eye, around your over-confidence and straight to the truth’. At times it proves useful but sometimes it can seem like a curse, the signs that indicate a falsehood buzzing around in May’s head like a swarm of bees.

All the characters in the book are deftly drawn.  There’s May’s mother, Esme, whose need for routine and obsession with cleanliness is perhaps her way of attempting to maintain control of her life. May’s aunt, Ffion, is the exact opposite. She’s a free spirit who leads a Bohemian lifestyle, living in a caravan at the bottom of the family garden. Her unique style of dress causes May to describe her at one point as ‘a cross between a Russian princess and a lady pirate’. Ffion’s chief influence on May has been to pass on her affinity with the natural world and her belief in folklore.

I was particularly drawn to Billy as a character. The vigorous young man who went off to fight in the Second World War has returned severely physically impaired and suffering from what we would now describe as post-traumatic stress disorder. He’s plagued with nightmares in which he relives the traumatic scenes he witnessed.   I loved Billy’s relationship with May, their quiet companionship and his unconditional love for her. Billy is often silent but when he speaks it’s because it’s something of significance.

The life of the family eventually spins out of control when May’s suspicion there are things being kept from her by her mother, her father and her aunt are proved correct. Suddenly all the snippets of overhead conversations, chance remarks and other clues make sense. Although the nature of the secret may not come as a complete surprise to the reader and could be argued something concealed with the best of intentions, for May it is devastating. After all, she’s the girl who is supposed to have the gift of detecting lies but here is an enormous falsehood that has been hiding in plain sight all along. As she observes, ‘Some gift. A terrible, poisoned, uninvited, wicked fairy benediction. A twisted fairytale turned on its head.’   It forces her to question everything about herself and to wonder if the rift that has been created can ever be repaired.

Only May is a beautifully written, character-led story with a plot that unfolds slowly; it’s not a book to race through but to savour.

In three words: Tender, insightful, lyrical

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Carol Lovekin Author PIcAbout the Author

Carol Lovekin has Irish blood and a Welsh heart. She was born in Warwickshire and has lived in mid Wales since 1979. A feminist, she finds fiction the perfect vehicle for telling women’s collective stories. Her books reflect her love of the landscape and mythology of her adopted home.

Connect with Carol
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My Week in Books – 22nd May 2022

MyWeekinBooksOn What Cathy Read Next last week

Monday – I shared my proposed reading list for the 20 Books of Summer 2022 reading challenge. 

Tuesday – I published my review of time-slip novel The Witch’s Tree by Elena Collins as part of the blog tour. This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic was Books I Was Excited To Get But Haven’t Read Yet

WednesdayWWW Wednesday is my weekly opportunity to share what I’ve just read, what I’m currently reading and what I plan to read next… and to take a peek at what others are reading. 

Thursday – I published my review of crime thriller The Murder Rule by Dervla McTiernan as part of the blog tour. 

Friday – I shared my review of The Healing Power of Nature by Vincent van Gogh, an illustrated book of inspirational quotations, paintings and sketches.

Saturday – I indulged my other love – gardening – by participating in the Six on Saturday meme.  

New arrivals

A is for AtlasA Is For Atlas by Megan Barford (ARC, National Maritime Museum Greenwich)

A sumptuous, lavishly illustrated celebration of cartography, featuring charts, maps, globes, and atlases from the map collections at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London. This volume explores the variety of stories hidden within the collections, including materials, techniques, makers, users, genres, and features to understand more about the different worlds in which maps were produced and consumed. From imperial rule to labor solidarity, and from sumptuous display to scrap paper, A is for Atlas presents the map collections of the National Maritime Museum as never seen before.

The Death of RemembranceThe Death of Remembrance by Denzil Meyrick (ARC, Polygon)

It’s 1983, and a beat constable walks away from a bar where he knows a crime is about to be committed.

In the present, an old fisherman is found dead by the shoreline and a stranger with a mission moves into a shabby Kinloch flat.

Meanwhile, D.C.I. Jim Daley is trying to help Brian Scott stay sober, and the good people of Kinloch are still mourning the death of one of their own.

As past and present collide, Daley finds himself face to face with old friends and foes. Memories can only last as long as those who keep them, and ghosts will not be silenced.

Sorrow and BlissSorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason (W&N)

Everyone tells Martha Friel she is clever and beautiful, a brilliant writer who has been loved every day of her adult life by one man, her husband Patrick. A gift, her mother once said, not everybody gets. So why is everything broken? Why is Martha – on the edge of 40 – friendless, practically jobless and so often sad? And why did Patrick decide to leave?

Maybe she is just too sensitive, someone who finds it harder to be alive than most people. Or maybe – as she has long believed – there is something wrong with her. Something that broke when a little bomb went off in her brain, at 17, and left her changed in a way that no doctor or therapist has ever been able to explain.

Forced to return to her childhood home to live with her dysfunctional, bohemian parents (but without the help of her devoted, foul-mouthed sister Ingrid), Martha has one last chance to find out whether a life is ever too broken to fix – or whether, maybe, by starting over, she will get to write a better ending for herself.

The Island of Missing TreesThe Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak (Viking)

Two teenagers, a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot, meet at a taverna on the island they both call home. In the taverna, hidden beneath garlands of garlic, chili peppers and creeping honeysuckle, Kostas and Defne grow in their forbidden love for each other. A fig tree stretches through a cavity in the roof, and this tree bears witness to their hushed, happy meetings and eventually, to their silent, surreptitious departures. The tree is there when war breaks out, when the capital is reduced to ashes and rubble, and when the teenagers vanish. Decades later, Kostas returns. He is a botanist looking for native species, but really, he’s searching for lost love.

Years later, a Ficus carica grows in the back garden of a house in London where Ada Kazantzakis lives. This tree is her only connection to an island she has never visited – her only connection to her family’s troubled history and her complex identity as she seeks to untangle years of secrets to find her place in the world.

On What Cathy Read Next this week

Currently reading

Planned posts

  • Blog Tour/Book Review: Only May by Carol Lovekin
  • Blog Tour/Book Review: The White Girl by Tony Birch 
  • Promo: The Dark Earth by Gordon Doherty
  • Blog Tour/Book Review: Twenty-Eight Pounds Ten Shillings by Tony Fairweather
  • Book Review: Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov