Sex is Forbidden, By Tim Parks


Unlike its sexed-up title (it was originally The Server) Parks's playful book is largely concerned with the energising power of self-denial.

Beth Marriot, a young woman with a past, has buried herself at the Dasgupta Institute, a hard-core Buddhist retreat where men and women are kept segregated and eye contact is banned.

Distracting Beth from a Life of Equanimity is the charismatic presence of Mi Nu Wai – a pale priestess with whom Beth longs to eat, sleep and meditate.

When the novel finishes, it's a relief finally to escape the Institute's half-baked mantras and pulse-based stews.