Mini-Reviews: Literary Fiction novels about female bodies with fabulist elements

The Illness Lesson by Clare Beams


Published by Random House UK, February 6th 2020

I was beyond excited for this book – on paper this sounds like my type of book to the extreme. Its central conceit is a fabulist metaphor, it focusses women and their bodies, and the writing is lyrical enough without being flowery. I think this would have worked a lot better for me had it been a short story. As it was, I did not find it weird enough or realistic enough for me to work. I found the characters indistinct and never got a proper impression of the place – something that would have helped ground me in the world Beams builds here. I am (maybe unfairly) blaming this book for my reading slump because I have been reading it for two months, feeling too guilty to pick up another litfic kind of book and dreading having to pick it back up – so yesterday I decided to just not keep doing that. This is not a bad book and I might have actually rated it 3 stars had I kept with it, but it is very much not the book for me. I struggle with historical fiction and really wish this had been weirder.

My rating: DNF

I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Follow Me to Ground by Sue Rainsford


Published by Random House UK, March 5th 2020

I adored this – the writing, the storyline, the absolute bonkers weirdness, and most of all the wonderful main character. This book is super weird and the prose is flowery enough to sometimes hide what is going on, to really, really work for me. It is also a deeply disturbing book, both in the central imagery of a ground that needs to be fed and of healers opening up their patients and then putting them into the earth to heal and in the casual horror of the main character’s relationship – a horror that Rainsford does not explicate but makes very very obvious nonetheless.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Content warning: body horror, pedophilia

I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

13 thoughts on “Mini-Reviews: Literary Fiction novels about female bodies with fabulist elements

  1. Obviously I could not agree more about The Stupid Illness Lesson. Do you think I would like Follow Me To Ground? I keep seeing everyone’s rave reviews but I remain slightly unconvinced, given the magical realist elements…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Soooo, Follow Me to Ground is SUPER weird. The grounding in reality is slim, if even that. But it is beautifully written and very very dark. I can see you leaning either way – it really is heavily surreal. It’s also short enough that even if you don’t love it, you’ll be done after two hours.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So glad you enjoyed Follow Me to Ground! It’s such a striking book.

    I’m sad to hear you were let down by The Illness Lesson though; I was so excited about it but it’s getting some very lukewarm reviews…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Illness Lesson just did not work for me at all – it was pretty straight forward historical fiction which is always a tough sell for me though. I’m just glad it didn’t make the longlist.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I absolutely loved the writing in Follw Me to Ground. Bummer about The Illness Lesson though! That one was on my TBR but it’s holding less and less appeal. Seems like a missed opportunity that it didn’t lean harder into the weirdness of its premise!


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