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Hurricane Season Reviews

Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor, Sophie Hughes

Hurricane Season

Fernanda Melchor, Sophie Hughes

3.82 out of 5

6 reviews

Imprint: Fitzcarraldo Editions
Publisher: Fitzcarraldo Editions
Publication date: 19 Feb 2020
ISBN: 9781913097097

Written with an infernal lyricism that is as affecting as it is enthralling, HURRICANE SEASON, Fernanda Melchor's first novel to appear in English, is a formidable portrait of contemporary Mexico and its demons, brilliantly translated by the award-winning translator Sophie Hughes.

  • The ObserverBook of the Day
4 stars out of 5
25 Feb 2020

"The near-dystopian onslaught of horror and squalor leaves you dumbstruck"

What follows is a brutal portrait of small-town claustrophobia, in which machismo is a prison and corruption isn’t just institutional but domestic, with families broken by incest and violence. Melchor’s long, snaking sentences make the book almost literally unputdownable, shifting our grasp of key events by continually creeping up on them from new angles. The object isn’t clarity, but complication: the Witch, it turns out, might actually be a man and there are three of them.


4 stars out of 5
Ian Thomson
19 Aug 2020

"structurally adventurous, and rife with narco-style violence and expletive-heavy prose"

Sophie Hughes deserves a medal for her translation, which expertly captures the novel’s lugubrious comedy and propulsive, high-octane scatology (“shit-stirring harpies”). If Hurricane Season has a fault, it lies in the unrelentingly dark and testy quality of its vision, which allows for little or no hope. Melchor, 38, was reportedly depressed when she came to write the novel; it certainly shows. 

2 stars out of 5
Adam Mars-Jones
19 Mar 2020

"The goal of making the reader as powerless to contest the impact of the narrative as the characters are to resist their circumstances is undesirable as well as impractical"

The goal of making the reader as powerless to contest the impact of the narrative as the characters are to resist their circumstances is undesirable as well as impractical. Reading can’t and shouldn’t become an ‘ineluctable modality’ (a phrase in Ulysses derived from Aristotle), something impossible to keep out, like the visual impressions received by an open-sighted eye. In literature readerly freedom is not something for technique to overcome but the medium through which technique operates, however extreme the material.

4 stars out of 5
M John Harrison
11 Mar 2020

"Hurricane Season is an uncompromisingly savage piece of work: difficult to escape from, built to shock. Yet it’s also elating"

Fernanda Melchor’s deep drill into violence, femicide, homophobia and misogyny, translated with considerable verve and force by Sophie Hughes and longlisted for this year’s International Booker, is based on the real-life killing of a “witch” outside Veracruz. It’s a mystery novel, but not one presented in any manner to which we’re accustomed; a horror novel, but only metaphorically; and a political novel with deep penetration of a remarkably foul milieu. “I was in a very pessimistic place when I wrote it,” Melchor told Publishers Weekly earlier this year. You close the book every so often, feeling that you have learned too much. Though there are glitters of humour and empathy, Hurricane Season is an uncompromisingly savage piece of work: difficult to escape from, built to shock. Yet it’s also elating. I was left buoyed up by Melchor’s anger, elated because she had shown me things I needed to be faced with.

4 stars out of 5
Daniel Baksi
1 Mar 2020

" Its long, freewheeling sentences chronicle an unrelenting process of destruction"

Particularly sharp is Melchor’s ear for the quirks and rhythms of spoken language. Her characters reel off slurs and expletives with an artful poeticism that contrasts effectively with the novel’s reportage-influenced style of narration. This has the effect, at times, of introducing a welcome light-heartedness to proceedings. Still more striking are the obscenities recounted by the characters in vulgar, colloquial detail, Melchor daring readers to turn the page and offering a reminder, once the revulsion settles, that harsh realities are to be endured rather than evaded.

5 stars out of 5
Lucy Scholes
27 Feb 2020

"Melchor presents her readers with a modern Boschian hellscape rendered in harrowing but magnificent detail"

This is not a book for the faint-hearted. The worst that humanity has to offer is detailed here — unimaginable violence and cruelty, bestiality, rape — and every page is littered with profanities. Yet I found it impossible to look away. Hurricane Season unfurls with the pressure and propulsion of an unforeseen natural disaster, the full force of Melchor’s arresting voice captured in Sophie Hughes’ masterful translation. Each chapter is a single paragraph, the sentences of which teem and scurry, each clause scrabbling over the next. Full-stops are few and far between.