Listen. 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.
My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invite and to the publisher for the paperback to review. This is the first book by Carol Lovekin that I have read, although I have bought a couple of previous ones on Kindle and Only May was for me, a perfect introduction to her work.
The story is set in the late 1950’s, 17 year old May Harper lives with her parents Esme and Billy in their Welsh village, whilst Esme’s younger sister Ffion lives in a caravan in the garden. The two sisters are totally different in personality – Esme likes order and is a worrier whilst Ffion lives a more carefree bohemian lifestyle and likes to think she has inherited her mother’s gift for readings from palms and teacups. May has a gift of her own. She can see from people’s eyes when they are lying to her. Something which happens rather a lot in this story.
Only May is a slow paced, character driven novel. It isn’t a book that you can race through and Carol Lovekin’s skillfully created narrative ensures that you take your time. The writing is evocative, descriptive and almost poetic. There were so many quotes that I could have included, but I gave up marking the pages and just enjoyed the writing and the journey with May as she attempts to find the truth.
The book is not character heavy but both main and supporting cast have distinct personalties. Dreamy May and her affinity with bees, her father Billy, dreadfully maimed during the war but with a quiet persona despite his physical and mental injuries causing him nightmares. Family friend/employer Constance Cadwallader and her lover have to conduct their relationship in secret; and then there is Gwen, the one and only friend that May truly trusts.
It did take a while to get to the crux of the story, and I had guessed part of it already, but May’s determination for answers made her fierce. The countryside and nature is very much a part of the story, and almost a character in itself. Set against this backdrop of hawthorn blossom and bees, I felt May’s anguish as she searched for the truth after hearing whispers and half conversations and hoped that she would find peace.
With themes including family and relationships, Only May is a beautiful read and I will certainly be reading more from Carol Lovekin. 🐝
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.
Also by Carol Lovekin:
GHOSTBIRD: ‘Charming, quirky, magical’ Joanne Harris
SNOW SISTERS: ‘… a novel of magic, of potent spells, and of great beauty.’ Louise Beech
WILD SPINNING GIRLS: ‘an author with magic in her writing whose words enhance the lives of those who read her.’ Linda’s Book Bag
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