Hello everyone, I’m here with a little bit of housekeeping for starters; I’ve decided to add another post type to my blog – the double book review. These reviews will contain two (or potentially more) books that are somehow related in topic and/or title. This week, I’ll be reviewing two books that deal with ‘sleeping alone.’ Around Valentine’s Day it always seems fitting to include some content that deals with both loneliness/togetherness and fulfillment, and these books proved to have diverse themes and contents.
My Valentine gift to you all is this double review, coming after my regularly scheduled singular review. I wouldn’t expect a ton of double reviews, though I do have a pair of books laid out for my next. I’ll only be doing these for special occasions or when I have an easy week.
The first book I purchased out of the two, and in turn the first I read this past week was The Art of Sleeping Alone. This memoir, written by Sophie Fontanel, is about her choice to give up sex for a few years.
I was a bit surprised by this book; Fontanel was raped by an older man at the age of thirteen, leaving her with a very skewed perception of sex. She comments on how she often did not vocalize her “no” and “later,” which likely stemmed from her first “no” being ignored. Her terminology for having sex was ‘letting herself be caught,’ which, though tragic, is definitely thought-provoking.
When I picked up this book several months back, I was going through a stressful period. During my last semester in college I would habitually dwell on my loneliness, missing the semi-familiar and comforting presence of another person beside me, even in a platonic sense. I was sick of sleeping alone. I came to this memoir looking for advice, expecting a sense of empowerment, and I found it. Fontanel writes of coming to a point where she happily voices what she does and does not want, something that is extremely empowering.
Fontanel’s imagination is beautiful, and following her through her singular existence is both stunning and satisfying. Her wording and style ring similar to an older French film, I frequently found myself thinking that each chapter would serve well being introduced verbally before the action in a film. She writes brief stories (2-3 pages each) in eight chapters. The format was very unique, and I never quite expected the end of a chapter. The stories flowed well, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to see Fontanel’s experience, as well as seeing how people opened up to her about their sex lives and feelings.
The Art of Sleeping Alone really made me consider how differently everyone views sex. It is a multi-dimensional topic, one that of course cannot be contained within one blog post. The various characters who approach her to discuss their sex lives, their wants, and her strength are all bringing another morsel to the table.
Though I thoroughly enjoyed Fontanel’s language, I had a hard time connecting well with the book. I loved the content, but the short chapters became too quick to keep me drawn in. Her writing was powerful, but each story was so brief that I had a hard time focusing enough at the end of one to be drawn to the next.
The feminist themes in this book are much clearer than I thought they’d be. Fontanel is the definition of a woman who neither needs nor wants a man to feel fulfilled. She takes matters into her own hands, leaving a lover and falling in love with herself throughout the narrative. She takes the good with the bad and ultimately her writing translates as a fairly organic work.
I give Fontanel’s book a 7/10.
Credit: Meg Vallee Munoz via Facebook
The second book, The Hazards of Sleeping Alone by Elise Juska, is a novel. I’m not one for general fiction, so this was a random choice amongst my frequent nonfiction, poetry, and various literary fiction. It’s referred to as “chick lit” on the cover and on Goodreads, and I find that term both mildly offensive and misogynistic. I’ll have to pick up some better “chick lit” soon to help me cope.
Juska’s protagonist Charlotte is dealing with loneliness, though it is her daughter that drew me into the book initially; Emily is labeled as passionate and opinionated. We meet Charlotte just before her daughter is to visit, and as background we learn that she doesn’t mind her solitude for romantic reasons. Charlotte is basically written as the über uncool mom, divorced from the hip dad that her daughter resonates well with.
Within 25 pages I was thrown off by Charlotte’s character; after she mentions (internally and externally) that she didn’t expect Emily’s boyfriend to be black. She doesn’t continue to protest it, but I feel extremely uncomfortable about her approach. To be quite frank, that exchange left me so uninvested in the book that I couldn’t make myself finish it. I called it quits on page 25. I understand the appeal of a dynamic character who overcomes her racism etc. but I’m really not up for reading that narrative again and again. Mild racism is still racism, and I can’t become invested in a protagonist with that stream of thought.
(Not to imply that Juska herself is racist, I’m assuming she’s quite the opposite, writing on this topic for that reason. If you feel like you’d enjoy the book from what you’ve read so far, you’re more than welcome to read it.)
I don’t feel comfortable providing a rating for this book on a 1-10 scale since I chose not to finish it.
You all can expect a concept/opinion piece on Tuesday, hopefully no one will mind this week’s posts being a bit different from the norm. Keep in mind that double book reviews in the future won’t read quite the same, I almost never feel compelled to put down a book like I did this round.
Next Friday’s review will be on a book whose author’s birthday is Thursday!