Epeolatry Book Review: Bloom by Delilah S. Dawson
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Author: Delilah S. Dawson
Publisher: Titan Books
Genre: Horror, Thriller, LGBTQIA+
Release date: 3rd October, 2023
Synopsis: A sweet sapphic romance takes a deadly dark turn in this sharp-as-a-knife novella with the slow build menace of Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber―from a New York Times-bestselling author hailed by Chuck Wendig as “a storyteller working at the top of her class.”
Rosemary meets Ash at the farmers’ market. Ash―precise, pretty, and practically perfect―sells bars of soap in delicate pastel colors, sprinkle-spackled cupcakes stacked on scalloped stands, beeswax candles, jelly jars of honey, and glossy green plants.
Ro has never felt this way about another woman; with Ash, she wants to be her and have her in equal measure. But as her obsession with Ash consumes her, she may find she’s not the one doing the devouring… Told in lush, delectable prose, this is a deliciously dark tale of passion taking an unsavory turn…
Carefully treading a line between sensual pleasure and ominous dread, Delilah S. Dawson’s debut novella is the cherry on the cake of a rich and varied writing career. Working extensively in IP such as Star Wars and Minecraft, here she takes free rein to explore her own world and characters, gleefully genre-hopping from sci–fi-fantasy to contemporary ‘cottagegore’. Bloom is a Sapphic thriller ripe for those both fascinated and drained by our age of insta-ready aesthetics, ‘the good life’ lifestyle influencers, and a growing recognition of what manipulation can look like.
Dawson knows how to write complicated, vulnerable women damaged by abusive relationships and seeking happiness in the wrong places. The horrible, victim-blaming fog of post-abuse regret – What if you had done that one thing differently? What if you had just behaved as they’d asked you to, not been curious, not pushed your luck, not made that split-second, bleary-eyed, sleep-deprived decision? What if you could have just been perfectly happy, and the only thing that destroyed that was…you? Yes, you know your red flags now, but what if the flags are actually rose-pink?
Given the raptured focus on Ash’s fae-like outward perfection, and the transcendent sensation of her food, the twist itself is less of a reveal anticipated from the beginning, but more of a brutal realization. It’s so swift and stark that it hits hard all the same. You know what you’re going to find behind the curtain, and it’s going to be awful, but you have to do it anyway. “Curiosity killed the cat.” Ro’s punishment begins early, and it is bespoke.
Bloom is a deliciously sickening recipe showcasing the pious simplicity and performative twee culture of the Pinterest idyll. It upends the glorification of the manic white pixie dream girl, exposing her successes as insidious, exploitative and dangerous. This book is so cheeky in its garnishes of horrific detail, and how the reveals light them up in new, bleak insight, that it’ll leave you squirming long after you’ve finished your last tainted bite. Even the couple’s name pairing, Ro ‘n’ Ash, has its own implications. If you really want to bathe in the delectable flourishes – it immediately instills a sense of folk mysticism and botanical utility from the spiritual history surrounding the Rowan (Mountain Ash) tree, which has been used in food, drink, medicine, and “as fodder for livestock.” [Shudders.] The tree being known for protection, divination and resilience, this background awareness infuses your final moments with Ro. Maybe next time you read a poem by an ‘anonymous scribe’, give it a closer reading, and check where it came from…
A lip-licking, stomach-churning read for fans of Carmilla, Misery, and Hannibal, with particular tongue-in-cheek winks to writers and academics who dream of Saturdays at the farmers’ market. This dish is best served chilled.
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