MY HUNDRED LOVERS, DISCUSSION POST #3

The third and final part of the My Hundred Lovers bloggers’ read along is now behind me. The book generated a great deal of thought from all involved – it was a great book choice for this kind of  forum.

By following this link you will see other bloggers’ comments as well as a list of questions put forth by the host, Bree. Here are my own thoughts (yes, there are spoilers, but read the book anyway and see what you think – I’d love to hear):

First of all, thanks to Allen & Unwin for inviting us to be part of the read along (it has been a new, but insightful experience for me), to Bree for being a great host (even if I did have to make my own drinks and nibblies), to my fellow bloggers for making this so interesting, and to Susan for writing a book that has challenged us in a lot of ways. Susan, your love of language is, for me, the most stand out thing about this book. You do have a gift.

My Hundred Lovers has been challenging and confronting on a number of levels. Some of the chapters certainly took me out of my comfort zone, while others were a poetic pleasure. At times I loved how Deborah expressed how things made her feel, how she described things that gave her pleasure – such as eating a gelato. At that moment, I wanted to eat a gelato…even though I was cold. These chapters were such a contrast to the more distant ones when she relates her sexual experiences. Those chapters left me cold. It was as if she could not connect emotion and sex in the same way she could fuse the sensuality of her non-sexual experiences.

Deborah’s contradictory nature was confusing. I imagine that if I met her I would struggle to understand her. At times she shows an incredible amount of self-awareness – “she could never own it, in the same way she could never own existence…her existence was air” (p186-7). Her understanding of the small things, the grass, the roses, places, is so acute; at times she is so in tune, it’s mind-boggling. And then she distances herself from this awareness and looks at herself from the outside, like she can’t or won’t reconcile some of her experiences with who she wants to be.

What else confronted me? My inability to really warm to Deborah. I wanted to love this book. I can’t say I loved it, because for me something was missing. I believe that was a “relationship” with the protagonist. I’ve just read over others’ comments and it was interesting that booksaremyfavouriteandbest had similar feelings by the end of the book. (I also agree that the cover quote was a bit misleading because I didn’t feel that Deborah was as much an erotic adventurer as someone who fell into situations and then had to try to sort it in her head.) What I can say is that I enjoyed the new reading experience it opened up. I enjoyed the discussions, the thought it promoted. I read with anticipation because Susan’s love of language was so clear and I enjoyed the book best at that level. I do prefer narratives that are more structured and flowing rather than disjointed, like Shelleyrae @book’d, however, this format suited Deborah and her “all over the place” persona.

I was intrigued by the quote “The Suspicious Wanderer enjoyed being marooned outside language”. Living in France, not fully understanding the language was restful to Deborah. I think this period in her life, with a different language and a different culture, was a means of escape in many ways for her. She’s marooned – there’s no one to rescue her – and she doesn’t need rescuing or want it in France. She’s like a castaway on an island and she’s loving it because she doesn’t have to justify herself to anyone. And even if she did, she couldn’t. She can be whoever she wants to be because she can create a whole new history for herself.

With regards to her husband, I do think it’s significant that he has the same name as her father. Firstly, the chapter ends with that point. The reader is invited to dwell on that significance and make something of it. Deborah idealised and idolised her father. In her words, she fell in love with him and she wanted to protect him. She admits that he is the basis for her attraction to many unsuitable men. She knows he’s not perfect. In the man who will become her husband she sees someone who could be perfect. It’s as if there are “signs” that convince her he is the one. He has her father’s name (she loved and idolised her father), he has “a heart” (works for Medecins Sans Frontieres), he speaks fluent French (France is her island and he’s landed on it), he’s tall and moves with a natural grace (like her father). Deborah so much wants to read the signs in her favour that she misses the signals from Celestine and the more direct warnings from her friends. She’s in denial and she’s looking for anything that will support what she really wants.

Once again, thanks to all involved. I hope we can find another book to generate such thinking – I’d like to do this again. I’ll be adding my review on Write Note Reviews soon.