“It all happened so quickly. First, animals became infected with the virus and their meat became poisonous. Then, governments initiated the Transition. Now, ‘special meat’ – human meat – is legal.
Marcos is in the business of slaughtering humans only no one calls them that. He works with numbers, consignments, processing. One day, he’s given a gift to seal a deal: a specimen of the finest quality. He leaves her in his barn, tied up, a problem to be disposed of later.
But the specimen haunts Marcos. Her trembling body, her eyes that watch him, that seem to understand. And soon, he becomes tortured by what has been lost – and what might still be saved…”
Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am thrilled to be sharing my review of one of the most hypnotic books I have read in a long, long time with you. I saw Tender is the Flesh mentioned a couple of times on Twitter and it instantly got it’s (meat) hooks into me. I couldn’t help myself and pre-ordered the book immediately. This is the type of fiction I love; brutal, powerful and thought-provoking.
I should probably mention at this point that I read this book as soon as it was published (a few months ago) and the fact that a virus infects the World’s animals seemed, at the time, to be nothing more than fiction. Anything involving a virus these days has a slightly different…perspective (?) to it, but I know I would still have read this book and still loved it as much as I do. Because it’s a bloody awesome book and if you’ve got a strong stomach and like the darker side of fiction then this is a must read!
So the big question here is…would you? Would you eat human flesh if that was the only available meat for you to consume? It’s unthinkable, right? Tender is the Flesh makes the reader ask themselves some pretty hefty questions and looks at the situation from some very interesting angles. To put things into context, the humans on the menu aren’t like you or I. They’re bred, farmed and processed the same way livestock is. They’re nameless, they’re nothing but protein. But….but…but…they’re still people, right? And that’s the brilliant hook which this stonking piece of fiction rests on. It’s absolutely impossible to comprehend. But that’s exactly what pulled me into the pages of this incredible book.
Marcos works at the local processing plant. The reader discovers that after so many years of watching and partaking in horrifically violent acts that Marcos has become somewhat desensitised to the brutality of it all. He’s a heavily flawed character, having recently separated from his wife, but I found myself warming to him as the story progressed. When an illegal gift on a Female FGP (First General Pure) is delivered to his house, he doesn’t know what to do with it (her!).
This really is an eye opener of a book and I devoured it (pun intended). I was nearing the end of the novel and I couldn’t for the life of me work out where the author was going to take things, how it was all going to be wrapped up. But it’s absolutely perfect and as a result, this book will stay with me for a long time to come. I expect it will feature in my top books of the year list.
Would I recommend this book? I would, most definitely, but it’s not going to be for everyone. It’s savage, brave, unsettling and utterly unflinching fiction at it’s very best. The way the ‘special meat’ is treated is inhumane and stomach churning and makes me question the way livestock is treated. Vegetarianism could be the way forward for me following this novel! If you’re looking for a book which is dark, disturbing and wholly involving then this is it. Bazterrica does not spare her reader and I absolutely loved it! Highly recommended. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you…
Tender Is The Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica was published in the UK by Pushkin Press on 6th February 2020 and is available in digital format. Paperback copies are available via Waterstones, Foyles and Book Depository (please note, the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |
Agustina Bazterrica is an Argentinian novelist and short-story writer. She is a central figure in the Buenos Aires literary scene, co-curating the event series ‘Siga al Conejo Blanco’ and coordinating reading workshops. She has received several awards for her writing, most notably the prestigious Premio Clarín Novela for her second novel, Tender is the Flesh, which has sold in eight languages.