Publisher: Harvill Secker
Publication Date: 22nd July 2021
This book is strange and dark and fierce and positively pulsating with rage and I BLOODY LOVED IT.
That’s the review.
But if you need more, read on…..
When I first saw Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder on Twitter, I was initially drawn to the cover and title and scuttled off to Google more. When I read the blurb I got the book tingles before I’d even got my hands on a copy. An exhausted struggling mother who thinks she’s turning into a dog?…..YES PLEASE.
If you’ve been here for a while you’ll know I love books about motherhood. Particularly when that mother is having problems. But I also love weird fiction that deals with transformation or shapeshifting of sorts (think The Harpy by Megan Hunter or the short story collection Foxfire Wolfskin by Sharon Blackie).
Nightbitch tells the story of a woman and mother in her thirties. She has a young toddler son and a husband who works away for most of the week, returning only at weekends. The woman is referred to only as ‘the mother’ in the first half of the book, later becoming Nightbitch.
The mother used to be an artist but left behind the artistic world to focus on caring for her young son. A boy who at two years old is quite demanding, doesn’t sleep much and subsequently ends up in his parents bed most nights.
It is during one of these restless, sleepless nights that the mother feels such absolute rage at her husband and the life she has been left with and this prompts the start of her strange transformation.
It is a transformation that begins slowly and insidiously, a small patch of fur like hair on the back of her neck, her teeth seeming much sharper and canine like, a very heightened sense of smell and hearing and an urge to buy copious amounts of red meat in the supermarket and taste tiny morsels of it raw.
Her husband laughs off her concerns and her young son is absolutely beside himself with joy as his mother begins to slowly abandon herself to her canine longings. They spend their days playing ‘doggy’ games, chasing each other across the grass, playing with balls, drinking water from a dog bowl and letting the boy sleep in a kennel. When her husband returns from working the mother returns the house to its normal state and tries to play down the doggy games as just a bit of fun with her son, bending to his childish wants.
But in reality the mother feels like a much more accomplished parent when she gives in to her urges to nurture the child as a dog would it’s pup. She battles with the internal struggle of whether she is a good mother or a terrible mother for allowing the dog games to happen and whether they will damage her son in later life.
Ultimately this is a story transformation borne of a deep rage. It is an utterly enthralling, rich an vivid tale of the way women have to find their way in the new role of ‘mother’ that is cast upon them, and leave their old selves behind.
It is feral and bloody and visceral and pulsing with raw anger and rage and I loved it. An interesting take on motherhood that I won’t be forgetting in a hurry. Nightbitch is a give star read and will definitely be on my books of the year list.
Thank you to the publisher for my proof copy.
See you soon.
Amanda – Bookish Chat xx