Margot Mifflin
June 13, 1997 AT 04:00 AM EDT

They're Cows, We're Pigs

Current Status
In Season
Carmen Boullosa

We gave it an B

Jean Smeeks, the French narrator of this darkly picaresque novel, They’re Cows, We’re Pigs, boards a slave ship to the West Indies, apprentices with a native medicine man, is bought by a surgeon, and joins a band of pirates who storm the high seas. Smeeks is transformed from a lovesick virgin to a compulsive freebooter who rapes and pillages like the worst of his buccaneer brothers. Writing in period style, Carmen Boullosa artfully evokes the blood-soaked reality of 17th-century pirates. Disappointingly, her narrative thread frays mid-book, and Smeeks’ story devolves into a numbing and plotless collection of stomach-churning debaucheries. B

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