Simon & Schuster £14.99
With the Kisses of His Mouth, By Monique Roffey
Sorry, but that's just too much information
Sunday 12 June 2011
Just what the world needs: another sex memoir.
That is what we can all be forgiven for thinking when presented with the Orange prize nominee Monique Roffey's latest, whose jacket promises to be "provocative and explicitly candid" and to explore "hidden worlds". Surely we live in a post-Belle de Jour world by now?
Roffey certainly believes so; this is very much a companion piece, rather than a pale imitation. Devastated by the break-up of a six-year relationship – and particularly by her partner's shockingly thorough infidelity – Roffey chose to shun the vanilla politeness of most internet dating, and instead to plunge herself into a voyage of sexual discovery. Tired of boyfriends, she was hunting a lover. What begins with some tentative postings on craigslist.org ends as an international project taking in sex parties in France and Tantric workshops in Cuba.
Fans of sex memoirs will be reassured to hear that there are moments of startling candour throughout. But despite intimate descriptions of erotic massage classes and phone sex with strangers, there is less of Belle de Jour's lifestyle raunchiness and far more honesty about how sex feels – as opposed to how it looks. But at almost 500 pages, the book is considerably too large to be properly enjoyable. A gentle smirk at the dramatic change in Roffey's tone since her novel The White Woman on the Green Bicycle turns to a kind of resignation at the almost relentless descriptions of sex.
Consequently, where the book excels is also where it fails: it isn't convincing as a book about sex at all. Roffey's writing soars when she's describing the intense grief she experienced at the end of the great love affair that prompted her journey. Her knack of capturing the relationship's romance, even at its grimiest and most painful, is incomparable to the talk of the "grand changes" brought on by the innumerable tantric workshops she attends. Who knew so much intimate stroking could start to feel monotonous? By the time she is studying under the tutelage of a man named Harley SwiftDeer Reagan, the sexual discoveries are bordering on parody.
Yet Roffey is both wise and moving when examining her desire for romance; her propensity for creation myths in relationships; and how her ex "had a talent for love". And her flashes of humour are more engaging than the flashes of anything more saucy. Just as her tireless quest for self-improvement starts to read more like a tireless quest for further material, Roffey questions whether she is "author in search of a subject ... or ... furious horny bitch".
The answer is probably both and yet neither. What comes across most clearly is her desire to be truly loved. Roffey asks serious questions about what place sex has in modern relationships, and is blessed with admirable honesty. But if you're after lavish descriptions of exotic sex in exotic locations, you may be better served by a Jackie Collins novel. This is a surprisingly unsexy book.
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Germany sees 'visible rise' in support for far-right extremism in response to perceived 'Islamisation' of the West