A young woman haunted by ghosts, magic and long-kept family secrets in a new novel from the author of the Wales Book of the Year 2021 shortlisted, WILD SPINNING GIRLS.
I give you fair warning, if you’re planning on lying to me, don’t look me in the eye.
It’s May’s 17th birthday – making the air tingle with a tension she doesn’t fully understand. But she knows her mother and her aunt are being evasive; secrets are being kept.Like her grandmother before her, May has her own magic: the bees whisper to her as they hover in the garden… the ghosts chatter in the graveyard. And she can’t be fooled by a lie. She becomes determined to find out what is being kept from her. But when May starts to uncover her own story, she threatens to bring her mother and aunt’s carefully constructed family to the edge of destruction..
Only May is a story that could only have been written by Carol Lovekin. Her writing style is unique, filled with poetic prose that evokes layer upon layer of wonderful imagery, juxtaposed with stories that gradually emerge to reveal fascinating plots, strong characters and atmospheric settings.
Set in Wales in the nineteen fifties, the narrative portrays seventeen-year-old May as a young woman who has been gifted the power to recognise lies. Even so, she becomes increasingly and uneasily aware that her family hold a secret about her past that shocks and distresses her.
Throughout the book there is a sense that the freedom that May cherishes in the natural world vies with the restriction of her home life.
The main characters are multi layered: May’s protective but hard-working mother, Esme, who, although she loves her, sometimes irritates May, Billy, her father, a man suffering from both physical and mental disability, but with whom May has a close and loving relationship. And then there is Esme’s sister, May’s unconventional aunt, who encourages her to explore the magic of folklore and the mystery of nature. All ably supported by a community of well-drawn minor characters, each with their own foibles, each adding to the revelation of the central theme – the truth of May’s life. A truth that could mean the destruction of the family. And of her trust in them.
Only May is what I always call a slow burner of a story, with a steady exposé of the plot through a narrative that is Insightful and philosophical. Therefore, this complex and spellbinding novel is one to savour. As such I thoroughly recommend it.
About Carol Lovekin:
Carol is a writer, feminist & flâneuse based in west Wales. She writes contemporary fiction exploring family relationships & secrets, the whole threaded with myth, fairytale, ghosts, Welsh Gothic mystery & slivers of magic.