Rosemary meets Ash at the farmers’ market. Ash—precise, pretty, and practically perfect—sells bars of soap in delicate pastel colours, 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…
‘Bloom’ is a wily little creature with sharp teeth and an insatiable appetite. It is a slightly odd one in that the synopsis truly sums up the bulk of the book, and so in many ways you know what to expect – something is going to go terribly wrong. The reader, unlike Rosemary, does not wear rose-tinted glasses; the red flags are there, they are glaring, and there is nothing we can do to stop Ro from making the mistakes that she makes. Ironic that a literary scholar cannot see the tragedy that she is involved in. Yet despite the inevitability of the plot and Rosemary and Ash’s relationship, Delilah S. Dawson still somehow finds a way to shock you. You think you know what is going to happen until you don’t, and by then it is way too late.
I enjoyed the unique 3rd person narrative style that Dawson uses throughout the book. It creates a cold detachment from Rosemary and her intense and obsessive emotions. Throughout the story we are simply observers, fully aware of the dangerous path Ro is going down but unable to reach out and stop her in her tracks. I felt that Dawson did a great job at depicting certain aspects of a toxic relationship, both through Ro’s frequent justifications and desperate empathy for Ash’s unusual behaviour, and our separation from Ro through the 3rd person narration, unable to help but endlessly hoping she will help herself.
‘Snake Plants thrive on neglect. They really only die if you water them too much. Hence, they die of love’
If I were to describe ‘Bloom’ in one word, it would be hungry. Typically I don’t really enjoy food in my books. I’m not sure what it is but excessive food descriptions feel a bit gross and nauseating to me. That was not the case in this book. There is an excess of delicious foods throughout that Ro and Ash happily devour. Food is the catalyst for their relationship, and it is the one thing that binds them together – their hunger, and their hunger for each other. The story is tight and compact. When an encounter between the two ends, a week passes in less than a page and they are back together again. The book obsesses over their relationship just as they obsess over each other, greedy for more and more until there is nothing left.
‘She is obsessed, she is compelled, she is called. She is a selkie, and Ash has her skin. It’s infuriating and easy and challenging and tumultuous and she is hungry for more.’
I thought that Ash as a mysterious love interest with a secretive and ominous background was written very well. Her volatility over the smallest seemingly mundane issues was eerily realistic, which definitely added an extra level of terror and anxiety for me. That sinking feeling of walking on eggshells around someone translated well to the page, and the subtle body language hints that Ash was angry about something consistently did a great job of revving up the tension at any given moment.
I wish I could discuss what ‘Bloom’ was inspired by, but it would absolutely give away the ending. One thing I will say is that this type of story has been done time and time again to great effect, but using a man and a woman rather than two women. I thought this change added a lot to Dawson’s story. It is falling for stereotype and assuming Ash is something and someone that she isn’t that ultimately leads to the story’s culmination, and it was fresh and exciting to see Ash take on a role usually assumed to be masculine. Ash truly makes the role her own.
As I say, it does become quite apparent that the story is heading into very specific dangerous waters, but ‘Bloom’ sticks the landing. Sometimes knowing where you are going only raises the anticipation and dread, and ‘Bloom’ takes that delicious dread and devours it whole.