Tender Is The Flesh - Agustina Bazrerrica
I don't know if this is something you had noticed, but I only tend to review newly released books, or books that tend to have some kind of hype about them. I'd heard a little bit about Tender Is The Flesh from a couple of people online, and added it to my list of books I want to read. I finally decided to purchase and smashed through it in two days; although the book is not necessarily a new release (first published in 2017) it was only translated into English last year, in 2020, so for that reason I thought it worthy of a written review. There's a lot to unpack with this book, so buckle up....
Tender Is The Flesh follows the life of main character, Marcos Tejo, a hugely successful high-climber in his career. Recently hit with the devastating loss of his first born son, Marcos is seemingly numbed to the demand of his day-to-day duties of his role within the country's most well respected meat processing plant. Human meat, that is. A rare, yet terrible disease falls upon all living animals, causing them to be a danger to human life, and therefore having to be destroyed completely in order to protect the population. The novel explores the journey from animal extinction, to the decision to consume human "product" in everyday life, as well as the complete detachment and hypocrisy displayed by practically every character we encounter within it.
Witnessing, in detail, the scenes that Marcos faces everyday in this dystopian world can be difficult at times. Bazterrica leaves no stone unturned when creating imagery of the steps taken from live "product", to dinner table. It goes without saying that this book is absolutely not for the faint-hearted. It's clear that this novel is designed to shock, to provoke thought, and, I suppose, to encourage the reader to take a step back to look at themselves and really consider how much (if at all) their morals differ from those of the books characters.
On a personal level, I thoroughly enjoyed Tender Is The Flesh from start to finish. I'm a lover of the macabre and gruesome, being a huge fan of horror and gore movies, it's difficult to ever achieve the feel of watching a good Slasher movie, in the format of a novel. This book, however, absolutely captures that... and then some. Unlike some books of a similar genre, Bazterrica leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination, I even found myself unintentionally gritting my teeth to help me get through certain passages. Alongside all of this, a strong and emotional story line continues to run throughout - I think it would have been easy for the author to fill the pages with the 'shock factor' and leave out any form of solid story line or character arc, however I think here we have a perfect mix of the two. Prepare for your jaw to hit the floor at the ending also, be warned!
What I liked
Although not much is given away about main character, Marcos, there are parts of his personality and behaviours that are absolutely relatable to as a reader.
As a lover of all things gore and horror, the plot, theme and grisly descriptions are excellent.
Thought provoking! The book seems to get better after you finish the whole thing, and really take time out to think about and digest (pun intended) what you have just read. As a vegan, I felt this a lot of emotions, as many of the procedures in the novel are much like those carried out today on animals as we know in battery farmed operations, for example. The fact that the novel is designed to shock, simply because the subject of the horrific acts are humans, makes it feel much closer to home, however, how much different is this from what is already happening to animals today?
Short, concise sentences and chapters - making it really easy to read and understand. Personally, when there is quite a lot going on in the plot (and a lot to take in) it helps me massively when the sentence structure is simple and dialogue is kept to a minimum.
As previously mentioned, a lovely twist at the end. I won't say anything more, for risk of not wanting to give anything away, but it's a shocker, and completely unexpected.
This book has the ability to keep you lying awake at night. If this is not a true horror, I don't know what is...
What I didn't like
At only 219, it's a very short book, and although that can be seen as a good thing (no unnecessary chapters or descriptions) I really wasn't ready for it to end yet!
Although I feel like I had a good feel for many of the characters, I would have loved to get to know a bit more about them, their personalities and their past - however I'm fully aware that may drag out and over complicate the book.
Overall rating: 9/10
Would I recommend: Yes (if you are not squeamish)
Thanks for reading my review, if you've read the book too let me know what you thought; I feel like it will make an amazing topic of conversation, though most likely not at the dinner table? As always, I am looking for book recommendations so get in touch with anything you may think I'll like!
Until next time,