The fungus claimed the women. All of them. The men and boys left behind must live their lives with the knowledge they will be the last. Little do they know what lies in the woods, what grows in the graves of their lost loved ones…

There are signs of change, of regeneration, and I saw the first mushrooms in the graveyard on the morning after I ripped up the photograph of my mother’s face.

I picked up The Beauty as I had enjoyed listening to Aliya speak at Nine Worlds as well hearing it crop up again on other panels. It’s a novella that packs a lot of punch and it’s quite hard to review it without spoilers, but I will try.

There is no longer space for gender roles, with the women gone, the men must do everything. They try now not to dwell on their loss but the memories of their mothers and sisters are carried with them. With The Beauty comes a new being, one which may at first seem to take the place of women, but soon the roles are reversed. Some fear The Beauty, some welcome them.

I’ve seen The Beauty categorised at horror and I’m wondering whether that’s more likely if you’re male. Yes, the women have all died but there are some things that happen to the men which might seem less terrifying from a female perspective. It is certainly uncomfortable reading in places when you pause to really think. There’s echoes of domestic abuse and having the right to decide what happens to your body is challenged in a different way. The men are put into the shoes of women.

Why, in the face of such suffering, do stories matter?

Nate is the storyteller of the group. They had clearly separated themselves off from the rest of society before the tragedy befalling women, so they are even more isolated from civilisation. The daily telling of stories is important to remember who they are and where they came from. But it also becomes a powerful thing, as Nathan changes, so does the slant he gives his stories, and not everyone is best pleased about the ideas he might be spreading.

Definitely something different to the norm. I did feel the finale was a bit rushed and the ending was the only let down to an otherwise fine story.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive | Unsung Stories

Book Source: Purchased