Sunday 29 May 2022

Only May by Carol Lovekin BLOG TOUR #OnlyMay @carollovekin @honno @RandomTTours #BookReview



The bee walks across my finger, slow as anything and I can see through the gauzy wing, to the detail of my skin. 

You aren’t looking in the right place. 

If you look her in the eye and tell a lie, May Harper will see it. And if she doesn’t see it, the bees will hum it in her ear. 

Her kind mother and her free-spirited aunt have learned to choose their words with care. 

Her beloved invalid father lives in a world of his own, lost in another time, the war he cannot forget. 

On May’s seventeenth birthday, a casual evasion from her employer hints at a secret hiding at the heart of the family. 

Determined to discover the truth, May starts listening at doors… 

She begins watching the faces of the people she loves best in all the world, those she suspects are hiding the biggest lie of all.

Only May by Carol Lovekin was published on 18 May 2022 by Honno Press. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour. 

I truly believe in the power of bibliotherapy. I believe that books and the words within them can heal. It is such a simple thing for the majority of people, to be able to pick up a book and lose oneself in the story between the pages. The ability to turn off the world and submerge yourself in another one. 

I have long admired Carol Lovekin's writing, in fact her books have featured in my top books of the year in the past, so I opened up Only May with high expectations. I read this novel during a time that has been particularly difficult for me emotionally and I can honestly say that it really has smoothed out parts of my heart that were a little bit cracked and jagged. There is such power in this story, such magic in the prose. It is utterly breathtaking, my copy has multiple folded corners, marking yet another wonderfully written passage that I never want to forget. 

Set in the 1950s, in Wales. May and her family live in a small community that still bears the battle scars of the War.  May is seventeen and she has only ever known her father Billy as he is today. A broken man, wounded both physically and emotionally by his wartime experiences. May never saw the young, energetic, vibrant young man who went off to war, but her mother Esme remembers that boy with longing. 

Esme works hard, she keeps a spotless house, she tends the garden and she works shifts at the local hotel. May also works there, but prefers to spend her time in the nearby woodland, connecting with nature, and especially with the bees. She also spends time with her Aunt Ffion, an independent woman who lives alone in a ramshackle caravan in the woods. 

May has a gift. She knows when people are lying to her. Only her closest family know about this, and it is these people who May discovers are keeping the biggest secrets from her. As she becomes a woman, she also discovers that the life that she thought she had wasn't true. She isn't who she believes she is, and this news is devastating. 

It is not for me to reveal any more of this story, it belongs to the author, and she tells it far more beautifully than I could ever hope to. What I can say is that is really is a special story, filled with characters who are rounded and well thought out, who the reader can believe in and relate to. It is a very female focussed cast of characters, with the males taking a secondary role throughout, although Billy is beautifully imagined. His pain and fear shines from the page, as does Esme's devotion and determination to make sure that he is as comfortable as possible. 

It is young May who is the true star of the story. A girl with her life ahead of her, but with so much wisdom and thoughtfulness. Her connection to nature is so well described, she's a joy to discover. 

Only May is a complex, riveting novel. It is extraordinarily good. Perceptive, profound and deeply moving. Very highly recommended by me. 

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.

Instagram @carollovekin

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