During her first months in London, the heroine of Deniz Goran's novel has a Polish landlady who tries to persuade her to marry a rich Polish man for money: "He would throw a big wedding for you and you would be on the cover of all the Polish newspapers!" How life imitates art. It was, in fact, on the cover of all the Turkish newspapers that Goran (aka Selin Tamtekin) found herself, not for reasons of celebration but condemnation. The outrage was because a Muslim woman had published a book that championed female sexual freedom.
Much of Goran's ire, and ironic observations, are reserved for the sexual hypocrisy of her Turkish Muslim culture, with its enduring obsession with the supremacy of men and the degradation of women by their division into virgin or whore. However, she tackles this subject with a light touch, using humour to address serious issues; this is a very funny book. Divided into episodic chapters that deal with her various lovers, the novel charts the sexual development of its protagonist through a series of hilarious encounters.
Most of the men do not come off very well, from early liaisons with "The Sailor" and "The Bangladeshi Landlord" to "The Italian Film Director", "The Prince" and, with a glimmer of hope, "The Love of My Life". Goran uses the affairs as a vehicle to expound her philosophy of erotic freedom and also to paint a picture of the sexual and emotional inadequacies of men. That mix did not go down well with her Turkish reviewers, who libellously dubbed her a "high-class Mayfair prostitute".
In a rare moment of despair, Goran tells a friend "Turkey has become a foreign territory for me". Indeed, after the publication of the Turkish edition, it may well be a country to which she cannot return.
Even though the protagonist's sexual exploits are frequent, explicit and side-splitting slapstick, the novel is at heart the serious story of a young girl from an admittedly privileged but deeply conservative background. She tries to build her new life in a foreign city, endeavouring to find out what she is going to do with it.
Although full of humour and adventure, from the private clubs of Mayfair to the over-decorated houses of the super-rich, this book is also a genuine plea for individuality, freedom, pleasure and self-determination, often in a society which would control these values, especially when displayed by a woman.
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