The Further Adventures of a London Call Girl, by Belle de Jour

No more a horizontal heroine
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The Independent Culture

As tricky second novels go, this one was always going to be a doozer. When the anonymous author's first book, The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl, was published 18 months ago, it made everyone in literary London look at each other a little bit differently. Was this saucy new voice a genuine discovery, plucked from an online blog? Or was she a hoax? Fingers were pointed at jobbing hacks, and her prose fingered for clues. When she promised to give up the day job and write a proper novel, it was intriguing. Her writing was full of refreshing comedy and eye-watering advice. But had the mysterious Belle gone too far on our first date? Or could she offer more?

It is disappointing, then, to see the author still turning the same tricks. This is someone who has made a living, she says, from knowing how to please, and she is not going to give up her old faithfuls: the shocking candour, the comedy lists or the clever comparisons that disarm a snobby reader as quickly as a judo throw. She is surprisingly zealous in defence of the working girl. Regarding the "romances" of nice girls from the Shires, she hisses that "Emily" will bury her own holiday indiscretions "but she'll judge me... for getting paid to do something she did for free".

Like her less uninhibited diarist predecessor, Bridget Jones, Belle has the knack of appearing to be Everywoman. And few readers will fail to grin awkwardly in agreement with something in the novel. The violating drudgery of her respectable new job will be eerily familiar to anyone who has worked in an office, and you have to admire the way she subtly compares working life to "working life", with the little rituals and the etiquette of the office tea smartly juxtaposed with the prostitute's routine.

All this hint-dropping is such an awful tease. While Belle's candid humour is compulsive, it is hard to find anything more meaningful in her further adventures. "I've found that men who like urine fall into two almost equal categories, the pissing-on and the pissed-upon," she explains in her naughty way. "But by far they'd rather be receiving than giving in the poo department. There's a dichotomy some enterprising academic could... turn into a thesis." That's interesting to discover. But unfortunately this book fails to prove there is more to Belle than a very amusing, scatological dissertation.

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