This is not a sex book but a book about sex. Isabel Losada brings her unique blend of humour, curiosity and honesty to the still-taboo subject of sexuality and pleasure. This is a brave, funny and often vulnerable quest to find out how we can make our sex lives better. On behalf of all women, a slightly terrified Isabel begins with a women's workshop where she has to get naked; she journeys through the first international conference on clitoral stroking; is informed of eleven different forms of orgasm (ten of which she hasn't had); and endures Kegel exercises and mystical sensations with tantric masters.
So, a book about sex. That, I can manage. But a book about female sexuality? Terrifying. Apart from a very brief encounter as a teenager, my experiences of sexual intimacy with a woman have been non-existent, and as a fully fledged homosexual it's really not something I know all that much about. Mercifully, I couldn't have asked for a better guide than Isabel Losada - and "Sensation" follows Losada on a journey of discovery through varied experiences - some bizarre, some eye opening, but all told with warm humour and a complete lack of judgement - the author is keen to learn and to impart her findings to the reader with an openness and honesty that shatters any potential awkwardness that the reader (well, me) may have initially felt when picking up such a book.
Isabel's journey takes in Tantric Sex, Clitoris Stroking, Yoni Healing, Tantric Massage, Light Beams, Kegels, and Pelvic Floors amongst others, exploring pleasure and the female sex in intimate and intricate detail. Losada's skill as a writer ensures that the reader feels like they're on a journey of discovery right there with her - and her combination of openness and warm wit makes one feel comfortable no matter the situation they're encountering. If you are at all tempted to discover the complicated beast that is female sexual pleasure then this is a great way to dive in - and Losada a marvellous guide. On the other hand, if you have no great interest in female sexual pleasure, but are nonetheless keen to read an involving, warm and hugely funny tale of different people, different cultures and deals with intimacy not only in terms of sex but also in relationships and humans in general. Why are we so afraid to talk about sex? I don't know - but I'm bloody glad that Isabel Losada has and I hope many, many people follow her lead.
Pippa is a writer who longs for success. Celeste tries to convince herself that her feelings for her married lover are reciprocated. Ash makes strategic use of his childhood in Sri Lanka but blots out the memory of a tragedy from that time. The Life to Come reveals how the shadows cast by both the past and the future can transform, distort and undo the present, and takes in a wide range of locales - travelling from Sydney to Paris and Sri Lanka, with the reader being introduced to an intriguing cast of characters along the way
Michelle de Kretser is an Australian novelist, born in Sri Lanka but having lived in Australia since the age of 14. Her first novel was published in 1999, and she's grown in success since then - her second novel winning the Tasmania Pacific Prize, and her third and fourth novels nominated and winning several hugely impressive literary awards. A former editor for travel guide company Lonely Planet, de Kretser clearly loves to learn about different countries and cultures - as "The Life to Come" sends the reader between Australia, France and Sri Lanka, and described them with a startling effectiveness - making it a read that's transportive and immediate.
Pippa is the lead character here, and the one who links the themes and characters of the story together. She's interesting enough, but it's in the smaller characters where de Kretser's writing really shines - glimpses of fascinating people met in wonderfully described places. The book almost reads like a collection of novellas with an overarching theme - and that worked well for me, making it an easy read and enabling Kretser to introduce as many themes and concepts as she likes without them becoming too overbearing, as they perhaps could in one straightforward narrative. In fact, several historical moments touched upon were completely new to me, which added a new layer of interest - but at times I did feel that I perhaps missed moments of humour or satire due to my not being Australian - this is a book that deals with Australian culture and society head on, and as someone whose experience of Australia essentially extends to watching Neighbours as a child, I feel that there were aspects I didn't appreciate as much as I should have done.
However, this is a highly enjoyable read written by a skilled author - compelling, clever, and constantly encouraging the reader to question the decisions of the characters and the society they find themselves in - many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
Suzanne Spaak was born into an affluent Belgian Catholic family and married into the country's leading political dynasty. Her brother-in-law was the prime minister and her husband Claude was a playwright and patron of the painter Rene Magritte. In occupied Paris she mingled with the cultural elite including Colette and Jean Cocteau. But Suzanne was living a double life. Her friendship with a Polish Jewish refugee led her to her life's purpose. When France fell and the Nazis occupied Paris, she joined the Resistance. She used her fortune and social status to enlist allies among wealthy Parisians and Church groups. Under the eyes of the Gestapo, Suzanne and women from the Jewish and Christian resistance groups 'kidnapped' hundreds of Jewish children to save them from the gas chambers.
I love to hear tales about the French Resistance - I find them endlessly fascinating. Whilst here in Britain we were determinedly fighting a war against the Germans, they never landed on our shores in any number - whereas just a few miles away across the channel, parts of France were under occupation from the Nazi soldiers. The fact that a resistance existed shows the sheer bravery of the French people - teaming together to save innocents who the Nazi party had deemed suitable for the death camps. They risked their lives, yes - but also those of their families, friends and societies around them in order to help people and bring an end to the oppression that the war brought.
Suzanne Spaak was part of that Resistance, but she's a woman who's name has, until now, mainly been lost to the depths of history. She's a fascinating subject for a biography - going from a life of glamour and luxury through to entering a life of danger, not only joining a resistance organisation, but personally harboring children in her own home. It's a story that takes a turn to dark routes full of betrayal and danger - and Suzanne is a strong and vital voice at the centre of her own narrative. Anne Nelson bring Suzanne's life and the lives around her to life with a breathtaking vividness - she's clearly done huge amounts of research in order to bring this tale to the page, and it serves as an incredible tribute to the life of a woman who was complicated, intriguing, and utterly inspirational - an it's wonderful to see her life recreated in such a readable and interesting manner as has been done in "Codename Suzette". Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
Author Jim Harrison was a beloved writer, a muscular, brilliantly economic stylist with a salty wisdom. He also wrote some of the best essays on food around, earning praise as “the poet laureate of appetite” (Dallas Morning News). A Really Big Lunch, published on the one-year anniversary of Harrison’s death, collects many of his food pieces for the first time—and taps into his larger-than-life appetite with wit and verve.
Jim Harrison’s legendary gourmandise is on full display in A Really Big Lunch. From the titular New Yorker piece about a French lunch that went to thirty-seven courses, to pieces from Brick, Playboy, Kermit Lynch Newsletter, and more on the relationship between hunter and prey, or the obscure language of wine reviews.
Jim Harrison is probably best known for his 1979 novella Legends of the Fall. You may not have read it, but you'll probably have seen it - a handsome young Brad Pitt wandering the plains of Montana sticks in the mind somewhat. Aside from this book though, Harrison wrote a range of fiction books, and huge amounts of poetry - but "A Really Big Lunch" focuses on his love for food and his adventures as a roving gourmand. Harrison died in 2016, but this book is a wonderful tribute to the man - it's full of life, humour and an easy intimacy that draws the reader in and thrills them with descriptions of wonderful food and wine, as well as beautifully chosen prose.
I don't think there could be any better epitaph than "He live life to the full" - and it's clear that this was the case with Harrison. "A Really Big Lunch" is full of essays that convey an infectious and almost inspiration desire for fun, food and fine wine through prose that's unbelievably enjoyable - salty and rude and like hearing fantastic tales from a naughty but beloved Uncle. The lunch of the title is the feature of a fantastic essay about a 37 course lunch Harrison once partook in - 11 hours of grazing on dishes that varied from a simple soup through to a a hare cooked in port wine inside a calf's bladder - all accompanied by 19 different types of wine. It rather sets the tone for the rest of the essays - they're packed full of excess and some foods that even a voracious eater like myself wouldn't dream of eating - but Harrison's lust for life and living makes them all wildly exciting and interesting - his wit pushing the reader through even the most horrific of meals.
Of course, a life of excess isn't all that healthy, and Harrison's meditations on his deteriorating body certainly take on a bittersweet quality in the aftermath of his death. However, this collection of wonderful essays serves as a brilliant tribute to a great man - my face ached from grinning at the writing and my stomach hurt from pangs of envious humour. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.