The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez

Publisher: Granta Books
Publication Date:
01/04/2021
Length: 187 pages
Genre:
Horror | Translated Fiction | Short Stories

CW: graphic body horror, graphic body mutilation, self harm, suicide ideation, cannibalism, sexual assault, child abuse, child death, paedophilia, brief homophobic language, brief transphobic language, brief racist language, drug use

Blackwells.co.uk

Welcome to Buenos Aires, a city thrumming with murderous intentions and morbid desires, where missing children come back from the dead and unearthed bones carry terrible curses. These brilliant, unsettling tales of revenge, witchcraft, fetishes, disappearances and urban madness spill over with women and girls whose dark inclinations will lead them over the edge. 

GoodReads

Review

So, we all know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover but when I saw this pop up on Twitter I knew I just had to have it. I was unsettled yet intrigued by the disturbing cover, even more so when I read the blurb… and even more so when I read the book.

Now, as some of you may know I am partial to a dark read from time to time however, I’m struggling to think of any other book where I had to physically put it down more than once because the graphic descriptions made me so uncomfortable. Although you’re not eased into upsetting taboo topics (such as the dead child haunting a young woman in the first story, ‘Angelita Unearthed’) or the perturbing portrayals of the extremes of humanity (like the lengths people will go to to save themselves in ‘The Lookout’), there’s still a whole section in the middle of this collection which is unrelenting in its horror and which will stay with me for a long time.

This particular section begins with ‘Where Are You, Dear Heart?’; in the beginning, it isn’t immediately clear what route the story will take, however when it does become clear you can’t help but shift in your seat and clutch at your heart. Especially with the chilling final line which is the first point in my read where I had to take a break. The story starts with the protagonist’s love and fascination with Helen Burns from Jane Eyre and slowly morphs into the exploration into a troubling fetish which I was much happier being ignorant of. This is followed by ‘Meat’ which delves into the extremes of how depraved teen girls can be for those they idolise, in a way that felt sickeningly realistic and believable. Lastly, in this section, we have ‘No Birthdays or Baptisms’, which I’m not sure I have words to describe how intense and graphic self-harm is portrayed in this story. 

To be clear, I loved this short story collection and even though I had to take a break and collect myself I always immediately wanted to go back to it. Enriquez’s writing really gets under your skin and lurks in the back of your mind long after you have finished reading. Whilst it did make for uncomfortable reading at times, the stories and the characters were entirely captivating and complex. Some of them did terrible things but the context and lack of explanation, or closure in most cases, allows you to fill in the gaps yourself. So, although some of them weren’t likeable you were still compelled to read on. I loved the way the women were portrayed in these stories, illustrating the dangers of thinking they can only be mothers or sex objects. The content of these stories is definitely not for the faint-hearted, however, they’re more than just shock value and you can truly appreciate their depth once your stomach has settled.

Overall, I was incredibly impressed with this collection and urge any horror fans, or those who can deal with gore, to pick this up!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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