cover image Naked Men

Naked Men

Alicia Giménez-Bartlett, trans. from the Spanish by Andrea Rosenberg. Europa (PGW, dist.), $18 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-1-60945-476-0

The women of Giménez-Bartlett’s incendiary Planeta Prize–winning novel deploy their wealth to upend sexual dynamics amid the dislocations of Spain’s collapsing economy. When Irene’s husband leaves her for a younger woman, she retreats from her friends and brushes off concerns about her failing family business. She reconnects with free-spirited Genoveva, who coaxes her to join in exploits with male escorts. When prissy Irene finally agrees, she discovers the men repulse her but she enjoys the power of ordering them to undress. Genoveva introduces her to chauvinistic Iván and his friend Javier, a mousy, recently laid-off literature tutor cajoled first into stripping and then sex work by Iván. Irene’s rejection of physical contact initially offends Javier, but he slowly erodes her resistance. Even after sex with Javier unlocks unimaginable pleasure, she remains mercurial and rebuffs his suggestions that they pursue a more conventional relationship. Giménez-Bartlett’s stinging commentary on masculine fragility (notably in Iván’s perpetual frustration and Javier’s reluctance) pairs well with her exploration of feminine restraints through Genoveva’s surprising propriety and Irene’s shackling attachment to her deceased father. This provocative dive into gender, power, and class uses diverse viewpoints to craft a powerful story and an unpredictable, memorable ending. (Oct.)