Title: Tender is the Flesh
Author: Agustina Bazterrica (Translated by Sarah Moses)
Publication date: 6th February 2020
My rating: ★★★☆☆
Goodreads rating: 3.96
Genre: Horror, Dystopian
*Trigger Warnings – This book has a LOT of trigger warnings and certainly isn’t for the faint hearted. If you’re easily squeamish and don’t like gory books then this isn’t the book for you. Given the topics the book discusses, it can make for a difficult read, so it is worth being mindful of this before reading.
Here is a list of some of the trigger warnings: Blood, explicit detail of eating human flesh, heavy discussions of the slaughter process, dehumanising language and actions, rape, sexual abuse and assault, violence, murder, death, animal abuse (very explicit in one section of the book), gore, explicit sex, loss of a child.*
I would like to thank Poppy Stimpson and Pushkin Press for sending me an advanced e-copy of this book to review. All opinions and views are my own and are not influenced by receiving a copy of this book in any way. I would also like to thank the author, Agustina Bazterrica, and the translator, Sarah Moses.
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…
Overall opinion of the book:
This was such a shocking book that’s certainly not for the faint hearted. As soon as I read the synopses of Tender is the Flesh I was intrigued and knew I had to give it a read. I love books that are quite dark and gruesome, and even parts of this book made me squirm. This is a dystopian horror, but it definitely serves as commentary into current society. As the synopses explains, a virus causes animal meat to become poisonous and inedible. As the demand for meat consumption is still high, an alternative is needed. Instead of everyone eating plant based alternatives, human meat is made legal. This certainly reflects societies need to replace, rather than to change their lifestyle.
The conditions in which the humans are kept in, and the way in which they are slaughtered is horrific. The book goes into graphic detail of this and emphasises the inhumane conditions and atrocious acts committed against them too. The humans bred to be eaten are treated as animals and are unable to speak. It’s difficult to read, but it makes readers think twice about the meat industry as a whole. Yes, this is a work of fiction, but many animals are kept in similar conditions at the moment. There’s nothing pleasant about the meat industry and the book highlights this. Tender is the Flesh really does highlight the darker side of humanity and how some people will stop at nothing to achieve what they want. It shows the ugly reality of the way people treat others and will stop at nothing to fulfil their selfish desires.
The story follows the main character Marcos and his battle with his own morals and the morals of those within the meat industry. We see everything through his point of view, including butcher’s shops and how this meat is sold. He’s an interesting character that has his own journey throughout the book. I won’t go into too much detail about this as it will spoil the plot, but it’s an interesting one.
Bazterrica is great at drawing readers into the story, yes, there is a lot of graphic and disturbing content, but it is completely necessary to the plot and helps to build up a clear idea of what society has become. This is only a short book and doesn’t take long to read, but oh what a journey we are taken on! There’s so much to unpack and Bazterrica leaves a lot of food for thought. In terms of the ending of the book, it completely side swept me and I didn’t see it coming at all. I was honestly left stunned.
The writing in this book is brilliant, it’s often repulsive and makes the reader uncomfortable. If you’re looking for a happy book, this isn’t the one. But, if you want to read a very dark book that’s almost a commentary of the world at the moment you definitely need to give Tender is the Flesh a read. Cannibalism is always an interesting subject and something that many people discuss with disgust. This book gets into the real details of how it could become plausible and it’s honestly such an interesting, yet stomach churning book.
There were some parts of the book that weren’t linked to the meat industry that I found personally difficult to read such as a graphic animal abuse scene. Though I can see why this was included, I personally didn’t deem it completely necessary.
As I’ve mentioned above, this book is translated. The translator Sarah Moses did an incredible job. The book flows well and doesn’t feel disjointed in any way. Occasionally with translated books they can read a little awkwardly and some words don’t translate as well, but this wasn’t the case with Tender is the Flesh.
This is such a repulsive book and there were so many moments where even I was shocked by what I was reading. Given that the book has such a strong response from readers emphasises how talented the author and translator are. This book is meant to be uncomfortable and horrific. It’s meant to reflect the conditions of slaughterhouses and the meat industry as a whole. It’s easy to disconnect the cow that was killed from a cooked steak on your plate in today’s society as the killing process is not widely acknowledged. We all know that the animal is killed, but all too often denial pushes it to the back of our minds. Tender is the Flesh brings this to light at full force.
If you enjoy dystopian, graphic horror books, I’d definitely suggest reading Tender is the Flesh. It’s an interesting read and the translation is brilliant.
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Have you read Tender is the Flesh? What were your thoughts of it? Let me know in the comments below! : )
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