About the Book
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….
I have read and loved all of Carol Lovekin’s previous novels so when I saw this new novel I had to get my hands on it as soon as I possibly could and I’m so happy to say that I completely and utterly adored it. In fact, it might even be my new favourite of hers!
Only May follows May, a seventeen year old, who is able to tell when anyone is telling a lie. She is a great character; she’s hard-working and very honest but she really struggles as she starts to question what is being kept from her. This makes her confused and at times frustrated and a little angry but I just felt so sad for her and was willing her on to make her peace with the things she learns about those she loves. I felt an affinity with May as I’ve always been able to spot a liar very quickly, I don’t always let on that I know someone is lying but I can almost always tell. And it’s hard when you realise you know something but you don’t know who to turn to with that knowledge, especially when it can bring pain to others. May is so young to discover the lies she does and to have to process what it all means. I wanted to reach in through the pages of the novel and give her a hug. I did love her friendship with Gwen, who encourages May to have fun but also is sensitive to the fact that May’s life is different to her own.
I really felt for Esme, May’s mum, throughout the novel. She made a promise to wait for Billy as he went off to war, not having any idea that he would come back physically and mentally injured and scarred, and she stood by him. She supports him and cares for him, and she works so hard for her family. And then there’s Ffion, May’s eccentric aunt, who believes in magic and the power of nature. I understand why Esme and her often clashed as they are very different to each other and sisters often struggle with these dynamics but you can see that there is a bond between them and a lot of love.
The portrayal of Billy, May’s dad, is so real and heartbreaking. He went away to war and came back so different – he lost a leg so is now disabled but he’s also suffering with shell shock. I adored the way that you can feel the love he has for his wife and daughter, and the bond with May was so beautiful. The description of May’s perception of his pain made me feel so choked up.
Most of the time, Dad sits in his wheelchair, close to the window watching the birds, miles away, a haunted look on his face. I think miles away must be a truly terrible place.
The ways that May talks to the dead in this novel was so moving, and really touched me. I love that she sits in the graveyard for peace and quiet but can often hear her late Grandmother there. There is a passage in the novel that really made me want to cry as it’s so perfect:
I’m not sure people go to graveyards to remember the detail of their dead. Real memories – good ones and sad – linger in the physical things people leave behind, entwined in the mementoes of their lives: photographs, keepsakes, the notes of a favourite song. Names carved into slabs of stone are little more than a nod at remembrance.
As always in Carol’s novels there is a real sense of magic, and the ethereal swirling throughout this novel. There is a real connection to nature, in particular to bees, which I found gorgeous and really quite moving. Carol is such an incredible author, one that brings her readers into the world she creates and makes you feel like you’ve lived inside the story.
I’ve never been stung in my life, not by a bee at any rate.
Only May is a novel about finding out who you are, it’s about the connection to family and to nature. It’s a novel about friendship but mostly it’s about love. It’s such a beautiful, evocative and moving novel. It’s one that slowly weaves a spell around you and you find yourself unable to put the book down. You find you want to be with May and the bees, you want to go to the woods and pick bluebells and you just want to stay enthralled in this world. I adored this novel, and it sits now with Carol’s Ghostbird as one of my absolute favourite novels (in fact they have a lot in common and when I think of it it’s almost as if the two novels are in something of a conversation with each other). I highly recommend this one!
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.
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