Tender is the Flesh by Augustina Bazterrica

Publisher: Pushkin Press
Publication Date:
Length: 224 pages
Dystopian | Sci-Fi | Horror

CW: Cannibalism, sexual assault, animal abuse, graphic descriptions of slaughterhouses 


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…



After seeing Cara’s review over at The Tattooed Book of Tender is the Flesh I was very intrigued by the book. Especially as, on paper, this book seemed to tick a lot of my favourite boxes – translated fiction, dystopian, dark. This book was everything I was hoping it would be and more, but it is definitely not one for the faint hearted.

The entire novel is told from Marcos’ perspective and I really liked the way he was portrayed, this doesn’t mean that he is a good man but an interesting one. I liked how conflicted he was with his job and society’s acceptance to the ‘Transition’ as a whole. Although this is only a short novel, Bazterrica still manages to drip feed information to the reader about Marcos and the ‘Transition’, rather than explaining everything straight away. We are only briefly introduced to a couple of other characters, but in their brief appearances the reader is able to form a very clear idea of what these people are like. A brief look is all we need for some of these characters because of how awful they are, which wonderfully illustrates exactly the type of person that is surviving in this world. 

Considering this book was first published in 2017 before its English release in 2020, it’s uncanny how many parallels we can draw from this novel to the current pandemic. Which can make now the perfect time to read it, as I imagine, it hits much differently now than what it would have done in 2017. Similarities between the novel and the current global situation aside, even if there wasn’t a pandemic happening this novel would still make you feel incredibly uneasy and on edge throughout. Bazterrica’s descriptions were so detailed that I could feel myself physically recoil at times, despite this I just couldn’t tear my eyes away from the pages. There is something so addictive about this novel, I could barely bring myself to put it down to go to sleep. 

Overall, I understand that this book may not be for everyone, especially given the pandemic that we are in, however this book is well worth a read if you can stomach it! It’s such a refreshing take on the dystopian landscape that we’re often presented with this genre. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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