Saturday, May 11, 2013


Pages: 372
Date: 11/05/2013
Grade: 3.5
Details: Received from Corvus Books
           Through Nudge

Susan Street is ambitious. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, she won’t do to get her dream job. She is determined to become the editor of the Sunday Best newspaper. When the book starts it seems that she may have achieved her goal. The current editor is lying in hotel bed where he has spent his last living minutes having sex with her, and if she had a hand in his demise, she’s is quick to destroy the evidence before calling in the authorities.

Picture Susan’s disappointment when she arrives back in the office only to find that the paper has a new owner and Tobias X Pope has no intention of just giving the editor’s job to her, at least not without her fulfilling a few of his demands. Pope will set Susan six tasks, all devised to break her. If she completes all of them, the job will be hers. If she breaks before she has come to the end of the last task, she will have lost everything.

Susan Street is ambitious. She’s come from nowhere and has done whatever happened to be necessary to make it as far as she has, and she has no intention of giving up on her dream now, regardless of what the price might be. And so she allows Pope to take her on a depraved journey, designed to humiliate and destroy her. From a tattoo parlour in London, to Rio and from Sun City, via New York to Thailand, Susan submits to all sorts of deprived sexual acts, keeping her eye on the prize all the time.

The rest of Susan’s life refuses to sit on the backburner while she working on her career though. The relationship with the man she’s living with goes from indifferent to worse, she falls in love and lust with Pope’s son and rivals and enemies old and new are determined to destroy her any whichever way they can.

Susan’s life has just become a lot more interesting and scandalous than the stories she edits. A happy ending seems unlikely.

The front cover blurb from the author herself announces that this book

“Makes Fifty Shades of Grey look like Anne of Green Gables”

And I guess that is one way of putting is. Except that there really is nothing in this book that resembles the Fifty Shades book. E.L. James’ book was a romance, be it a steamy one. This book is nothing like a romance. In fact it is quite the opposite of a romantic tale. While there is a lot of quite shocking sex in this book there is a distinct lack of intimacy and romance. The characters in ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ evoked emotions in the reader and showed character development as the story went on. The characters in this book read more like caricatures of a time – the 1980’s and cling unashamedly to their lack of morals. There is absolutely no doubt what sort of a man Tobias X Pope is. He fires Susan seconds after throwing a glass of water over her chest only to call her that evening and offer her the job back. What do you mean, playing her? And when they meet in a restaurant the following statement by him removes all doubt about his character:

“Punctuality! One of the great virtues! (…) And so much more important than all those milk-and-water so-called virtues like honesty, decency and loyalty. I call those vices: soul-sapping things only to be indulged in by those who’ve cancelled their subscription to the human race.”

And he makes no secret of his intentions either:

“You do what I want, and you get what you want. Or you break”

And the same is true for Susan. If she ever had a heart she’s learned how to hide it well. Susan is not just ambitions; she is ambition personified. She has no shame and no scruples when it comes to achieving her goals. There are one or two occasions when it seems like things like morals and friendship might halt her progress but her drive to succeed manages to squash such feeble sentiments before she finds herself in real danger of having to give up on her dream. Having said that, she did make me smile on quite a few occasions:

“Taking the dirt out of sex seems to me as self-defeating as taking the taste out of food.”

This may be a sex filled book; it is not a sexy read. I found nothing tantalising or exciting in the descriptions of the scenes Susan finds herself in. In fact, I can’t help feeling that they were written to shock the reader. But then again, that can be said for the rest of the book too. A reader picking up this book hoping to find a story in which loves brings redemption, or a read that will titillate and excite them will end up disappointed. Read this book as a hard-hitting, well written, at times funny but also shocking portrayal of the (lack of) morals during the Yuppie era, and you have a fascinating experience on your hands.

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