Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Book #43

Cruel Venus by Susan Lewis

Allyson Jaymes has it all - celebrity, power, and a glamorous marriage, until her world is destroyed by the bitterest betrayal of all: her husband's explosive affair with her 19-year-old assistant, Tessa Dukes. Tessa's ambitions burn fiercely. Her chilling manipulation of fame and her steady destruction of so many dreams and ambitions lead all concerned into a fatal minefield of sexual obsession, psychotic jealousy and deadly treachery.

It is incredibly rare for me to read a book from this kind of genre. If I do, I am normally rolling my eyes in despair after the first ten pages. I can't stand chick-lit books about how horrible men are, adultery, women's moans etc. I only began to read this because my grandma had been raving about it, gave it to me, said I had skipped in front of a long queue of friends who were to be loaned this book, and urged me to read it.

I have to hand it to her, it is gripping. By reading the blurb I had thought it would be all "cry cry cry my husband has cheated on me with a younger woman boo hoo" and so forth. Although there was, of course, a great deal of that; it had a lovely little edge of spite to it. I am a huge fan of spite and scandal, so Lewis lured me in with this. I was forced to abandon my literary puritanism, throw caution to the wind, and immerse myself in the backstabbing and betrayals of wronged against women. Fascinating!

Lewis did well with her characters here, I feel as though I was provoked to like and dislike as Lewis saw fit. The depth was good, although I'd have liked to hear a bit more, slowly but surely of Tessa's damaging past. It was almost as though we were being fed little by little, in quite a tantalising way, then Lewis hits us with "YES this is everything that has happened to her, look I need to go, let's not talk about it again, no I don't know anything else about it."

The novel is filthy, though, to the point where I will struggle to look my grandmother in the eye when handing her copy back to her. The sex scenes occurred incredibly often - I think this Susan Lewis is more of a romance writer than anything else. It was a very sexy book.

The narrative was consistent throughout the novel, with chapters being sectioned off into smaller chunks given from the point of view of different characters. I was irked by the fact that the novel was broken into three large sections of a number of chapters each, which were named after the three main female characters. Surely if you name a section of a novel after a character then that section should be narrated by them or from their point of view? Why stick their name at the front of a section for no reason?

The ending wasn't incredibly satisfying and didn't tidy things up very nicely. My grandma had actually asked me to tell her who I think 'did it' (a murder, not it, everyone was doing it in this novel) as she couldn't work it out. I think I know, but the final sentence is very ambiguous and incredibly annoying.

I enjoyed this, although I see it as a literary escape, a rest for my mind, and an easy read. It really didn't take me too long to read, didn't challenge my mind in any way, I didn't learn anything substantial from it (apart from a few shocking sex acts that I had no idea existed or were indeed possible), and I am not intrigued in the slightest to read any more Susan Lewis novels. However, I would definitely recommend this to lighter readers who like a bit of bitchiness and suspense; it's definitely worth a read as a holiday novel.

43 / 72 books. 60% done!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Book #42

Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence

Clifford Chatterley returns from the First World War as an invalid. Constance nurses him and tries to be the dutiful wife but begins to feel oppresses by their childless marriage and isolated life. Partly encouraged by Clifford to seek a lover, she embarks on a passionate affair with the gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors.

This is my first foray into Lawrence and I am still quite unsure how I feel. This was my second attempt at Lady Chatterley, and it took me a very long time to get into my stride. The beginning of the novel is greatly about business, class and industrialism, and I am unashamed to say that things only began to get interesting when Lady Chatterley begins her affair.

I think my main confusion with this novel stems from the messages it is conveying. On one hand it is incredibly Victorian, and Lawrence's comments on social class and feminism clearly show this. However, it very well may be the most modern and relatable classic work of fiction I have ever read, and most definitely the first Penguin Modern Classic I have read with such profanities included in the text. The structure and narrative themselves are incredibly modern; however some of the plot lines are so aged. It was difficult to remember that this novel was written in the early 1920s.

I think one of Lawrence's messages here is that sensuality and sexuality are far more important and superior to the workings of the intellectual mind, and the pursuit of intellectual activity. Lawrence then goes on to explore the importance of uniting the mind with the body and allowing them to work in unison to obtain a higher happiness and worth than is possible without such intertwining.

Free speech is a big thing here, rather than the stereotypical free love. I particularly liked the class comments, the differences between men and women (at the time of writing and also in the present day) and the question of whether love is a physical or mental thing. Or both!

The characters were quite flat, boring and unlikeable. Lady Chatterley was entirely dull, Mellors was almost a comic stereotype, and Clifford was your typical wronged against pathetic male who reminded me slightly of pathetic males I have encountered in my own life.

It seemed slightly misogynistic to me, and I wasn't blown away in the slightest. There was a comment somewhere saying that women don't like sex and if they do they are lesbians! The ending was an incredible anti-climax with absolutely no reader satisfaction whatsoever. To me, this is one you would read to say you have read it, and then file it away never to be looked at again.

42 / 72 books. 58% done!