About a dozen years ago, I read Karen Connelly’s The Lizard Cage which really impressed me, so I was looking forward to reading her new offering. It wasn’t what I expected.
If you haven’t already seen it, you might want to watch the YouTube video created for the book (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCQYR1_fHII). It will give you an idea of the reaction you might have to the book.
Forty-two-year-old Eliza Keenan is a busy woman; she is the co-owner of a flourishing floral business, the wife of a professor, and the mother of two boys. Hers is a happy marriage though she feels that she and her husband Andrew do not have sex frequently enough. Her other complaint is that she has so little time for herself. One day she encounters Shar (whom she nicknames “The Amazon”) and the two quickly embark on a sexual affair. What follows is predictable: trysts, guilt, fear of discovery, etc. The points of view of Eliza, Shar, and Andrew are given, though it is Eliza’s perspective that dominates.
Readers should be forewarned that there is a lot of explicit sex in the book. Eliza thinks that sex is “the most fundamental pleasure.” Shar, who is studying to be a sex therapist and has knowledge of sex work, views sex as restorative. She believes in what she calls ethical hedonism: “Sweetness for all, without causing pain to others.” (Of course, since Eliza is married and has a family, whether the latter is possible is a question that dominates.) One of the messages of the book seems to be that sexuality is fluid: sexuality does not necessarily stay in one place on the human sexuality spectrum but can vary over time depending on situations.
Eliza is not an especially likeable character. She feels trapped in a busy life of career, marriage, and family, but does little to improve her life balance. She wastes energy envying Shar’s freedom and complaining a lot. For example, they can well afford a housecleaner, and Andrew even encourages her to get one, but instead of persisting to find a satisfactory candidate, Eliza resentfully cleans herself. And she still manages to find time to sneak off and have sex regularly.
Steamy sex scenes notwithstanding, I found much of the book rather tedious. It tends to drag and, as I’ve suggested, it becomes predictable. Then, at other times, the book lacks focus. A number of topics are broached: the Arab spring, Greece’s economic woes, family secrets, the differences between Persians and Arabs, sexual assaults, imbalance of responsibilities within families, etc. The ending is also problematic; a major coincidence, some startling revelations, and an abrupt, indefinite conclusion will leave most readers unsatisfied.
If you’re looking for an erotic read, this book is for you; if you want more than just eroticism, give this book a pass.