WEIDENFELD & NICOLSON £12.99 (294pp). £11.99 (free p&p) from 0870 079 8897

The Intimate Adventures of a London Call-girl by Belle de Jour

A tomboy in stilettos

WEIDENFELD & NICOLSON £12.99 (294pp) £11.99 (free p&p) from 0870 079 8897

In a world in which everyone wants to be famous for 15 minutes, an individual with talent and a genuine desire for anonymity must seem dangerously exotic. Particularly when such a person is a high-class call girl with a cult web-log and a six-figure deal from one of the most decorous publishers in the country. This could explain why, when Belle de Jour first came to the media's attention with her mucky online diary and her obscene book deal, nobody could believe she was for real.

Her prose was analysed to within an inch of its life. Her quick, northern turn of phrase was taken as a clue to her upbringing and education. Her lonesome little portraits of strangers on the Tube, like photographs of moments in a life, were scrutinised in the hope of pinning down her whereabouts.

Because she drops literary names and is obviously well-read, she was accused of being a highbrow novelist, slumming it on the quiet. Because her references are popular and modern, she was said to be a journalist attempting a smug hoax. When the literary detectives caught her bringing back embarrassing secrets from the sexual front line, it was assumed she was a dirty old scribbler in the Erotic Review mould. Some even accused her of being a man.

It's true, Belle de Jour can write like a man - and not just in the peculiar way she salivates over curry and chips and "a pint of IPA on a sunny afternoon". She lists like Hornby. She talks dirty like Amis. She has the misanthropy of Larkin and examines the finer points of sexual technique as if she is adjusting the torque on a beloved but temperamental old E-type.

She is fundamentally detached and focused about sex. "[I am] essentially straight," she decides: "I'll fuck women, but I don't want to go home to one." She could be almost any well-read single bloke in London.

But Belle's outlook is quintessentially female - and not only because she bitches about Julie Burchill and blows entire pay cheques on lingerie. One hilarious diary entry, in which she takes home a potential boyfriend and accidentally reverts to full-on "Whore Mode", leads her testily to remind herself: "Never have sex on a first date." After a weary account of one of the more tedious aspects of her chosen career, she concludes: "This is not a complaint - it is a statement of fact on the condition of being female". She's not talking about the sex; she's talking about the leg waxing. Nobody who has never depilated could have written such a book.

As a character, Belle de Jour is confusing. She is a tomboy in stilettos, a displaced northerner at home in the heart of London and as independent as she is vulnerable. To see her, with her best male friend, "blowing soapy scraps of bubble-juice diluted with manky Thames water on to the first commuters of the day", quite catches at the heart. She is kind, but wickedly funny. She feels a deep and fraternal fondness for men; but often finds them beneath contempt. In fact, she contains so many contradictions it could just be she's real.

If this is so, it presents the mysterious author with a dilemma. To sell her soul to Fleet Street? To whore herself around the publishers with the same old speciality tricks? Or to sell the cat o' nine tails and see if she can bring her blunt philosophising to straight-up, honest fiction?

It's hard to believe that this clever and candid new voice has no more to say. Whoever the author is, she should give up the day job. Only then will we find out what the real Belle de Jour is made of.

Buy any book reviewed on this site at www.independentbooksdirect.co.uk
- postage and packing are free in the UK
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
    She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

    Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

    The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
    American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

    Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

    James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
    Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

    Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

    Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution