The Lie Detector.

Book Review for “Only May” by Carol Lovekin.

Summary: Listen. The bee walks across my finger, slow as anything and I can see through the gauzy wing, to the detail of my skin. ‘You aren’t looking in the right place.’ If you look her in the eye and tell a lie, May Harper will see it. And if she doesn’t see it, the bees will hum it in her ear. Her kind mother and her free-spirited aunt have learned to choose their words with care. Her beloved invalid father lives in a world of his own, lost in another time, the war he cannot forget. On May’s seventeenth birthday, a casual evasion from her employer hints at a secret hiding at the heart of the family. Determined to discover the truth, May starts listening at doors… She begins watching the faces of the people she loves best in all the world, those she suspects are hiding the biggest lie of all.”

Age: Adult; Genres: Literary, Fiction; Settings: Era/s: Historical – late 1950s; Location/s: United Kingdom – somewhere in Wales; Other Categories/Themes: Novel, Family Saga, Coming-of-Age, LGBTQIA+, Magical Realism.

Only May

Let me start out by saying, yes, there is a touch of what I would call “magical realism” here, but because it is all within May’s head, and not effecting any of the people around her at the same time, I can live with this. I also want to say thank you to all of my fellow book bloggers who gave this book such rave reviews, that I had to buy a copy and read it myself. Not that this hasn’t happened before, but this time, it was a real winner. This is why I love book blogging – you never know when you’re going to read a review that will lead you to find a new author with whom you can fall in love. And yes, I can honestly say that I did just that with this book.

First of all, and foremost as well, Lovekin’s writing is just stunningly luscious. There’s not a cliché to be found on any page. Lovekin’s metaphors and descriptions are so original and so remarkable, it reminds me of Ondaatje’s velvety prose. Plus, all that is perfectly interspersed with simple language, realistic dialogue, and honest emotions to keep it from sounding overly poetic. THIS is the type of writing that calls to me, and begs me to keep reading. One could say that Lovekin’s writing is as layered in form and texture as a gourmet dish, that both satisfies and makes one hungry for more. Oh dear… am I getting carried away here? Perhaps! But I really don’t care, even though I think you get my point. So, let’s move on, shall we?

I mean, after all that, if you’ve jumped down to the last paragraph, you’re probably wondering why I didn’t give this an unequivocal 5/5 stars. Well, the first reason is because I feel that the final chapter was a missed opportunity to fully pull on my heartstrings. Not that it spoils the whole book, but rather that I wonder if Lovekin could have made it more poignant rather than just wrapping things up for the time being. It didn’t have anything that choked me up, and I was hoping there would be a real WOW of an ending. The other thing is how Lovekin treated her characters. On the one hand, I did care about May, Ffion, Esme, and Billy. Each of them has their own voice, and their own quirks, which set them apart as individuals. However, our main focus is on May as she’s the most complex and complete character of the whole cast. While I believe Lovekin wrote a very sympathetic main protagonist in May, there was also something just a touch distant about her. It could be her magical thinking and “communications” with the bees that kept me from totally falling in love with her. But as I said, I did care about what happened with May and all the others, which is something else that kept me reading.

Finally, I’m also not sure that the problem with the specific lie that May discovers the truth about was something that would be so upsetting. Mind you, I have no experience with that sort of thing (sorry, I’d be more specific, but you know me… no spoilers), so I could be totally wrong here. In any case, I’m not sure that the whole truth/lie bit was all that essential to this book, since it is far more character driven than plot driven. Since I’ve always needed to feel for the characters in a book, that is a good thing for me. All this means that while I totally admire Lovekin’s writing, and drank up her prose like it was the freshest spring water on a very hot day, I’m giving it 4.75 stars out of 5, but I would recommend this unconditionally to anyone who appreciates truly beautiful writing.


Honno Ltd. released “Only May” by Carol Lovekin in 2022. This book is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, Blackwell‘s, Foyles, The Book Depository UK and Book Depository US (both with free worldwide delivery), Waterstones, WHSmith, Wordery UK and Wordery US, Kobo US (eBooks and audiobooks),, iTunes (iBooks and audiobooks), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), as well as from as well as from and UK.Bookshop (to support independent bookshops, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic).

This novel qualifies for the following reading challenges: Historical Fiction Reading Challenge (#4).

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7 thoughts on “The Lie Detector.

  1. Hello, I have been frequenting many library book sales and one book purchased by me has the wording ‘May’ in it; the merry month of May and I hope to read and post it for that fine month, I hope but I am such a slow read that who knows. Anyhow, I am muttering on with difficulties of late to preview my post as I used to in WordPress but today I could not do this; it simply said page not found when I hit the preview button. Unsure if because I now have purchased the annual, unsure of anything and this has nothing to do with this fine review but there should be spoilers at times. Okay, do as you wish, and thank you.


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