book review: The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enríquez | #WITmonth2021





THE DANGERS OF SMOKING IN BED by Mariana Enríquez
translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell
★★★☆☆
Hogarth Press, 2021



I wasn’t the biggest fan of Mariana Enríquez’s collection Things We Lost in the Fire, an intriguing collection which I was disappointed to find favored the grotesque over the psychological, something that never fully works for me with horror, so this is more or less what I expected it to be. I did actually like The Dangers of Smoking in Bed much better (in spite of the fact that I’m giving these two collections the same star rating, lol), but it took a while to get going and fair amount of the stories fell into that same trap for me, where I felt like Enríquez was prioritizing shock value over something more organically unsettling. 

Highlights for me were Meat, a sinister story about two teenage girls idolizing a recently-deceased pop star; Where Are You, Dear Heart?, about a woman attempting to satiate her sexual desire for the human heart; and Back When We Talked to the Dead, the collection’s final story which ends it on a deliciously spooky note.

The least successful for me were Angelita Unearthed, the first story which actually caused me to DNF this book two months ago as it suggested to me that this collection would be everything I didn’t like about Things We Lost in the Fire — though I evidently decided to come back to it and give the rest of the book a shot; Kids Who Come Back, a promising concept literalizing the horrors of Argentina’s disappeared children which meanders and ultimately goes nowhere; and The Dangers of Smoking in Bed, the titular story which I couldn’t tell you a single thing about as it fell so flat for me.

So even though this didn’t completely work to my tastes, there’s something about Enríquez that I keep finding myself drawn back to. I love her creativity, I love the way she brings different areas of Argentina to life so distinctly, and when her stories strike that eerie, unsettling chord, they work beautifully for me. I’ll probably keep reading her books as they get translated into English, though I’m unsure whether I’ll end up loving any of them or whether they’ll remain in this murky promising-but-unsatisfying territory for me.

3 thoughts on “book review: The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enríquez | #WITmonth2021

    • That’s what I would advise!! Again, it’s funny that I’ve given them the same star rating and just goes to show how arbitrary this all is — when I think back to Things We Lost in the Fire I think of really graphic, gratuitous, grotesque writing, and when I think about this collection, it’s really the subtler, more unsettling stories that rise to the forefront in my mind. (Interesting that The Dangers of Smoking in Bed was written first — Things We Lost in the Fire feels so much more like a debut to me! Though maybe the translation plays into that…)

      Liked by 1 person

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