Sugar and Snails by Anne Goodwin #BookReview by @FTThum

Sugar and Snails

Title:                     Sugar and Snails
Author:                Anne Goodwin
Publishers:         Inspired Quill (23 July 2015)
Format:                Paperback
ISBN-10:               1908600470
ISBN-13:               978-1908600479
Website:             http://annegoodwin.weebly.com/
Twitter:                @annecdotist
Pages:                   342
Genre:                 Contemporary Fiction, LGBT
 

What’s it about?

This is a story of a woman’s journey of self-discovery.

I am introduced to Diana through the narrative of the life she’s lived, so far filled with insecurities and fears. The story begins in the present day with a confronting scene of Diana self-harming as a result of, so it seems, her partner leaving. The vivid description of her bringing a knife to her arm, after many years of abstinence, caused me to put the book down and almost not returning to it. But I did, because I wanted to know more.

What happened in Cairo? Why is it significant? What is she hiding? Why? What? How? So many more questions asked as I followed Diana Dodsworth’s life journey…from a young kid to a professor of psychology at university.

Diana’s story weaves in and out of different pasts as she held the attention of the reader, slowly and steadily divulging the story of her life.  Goodwin has written real characters, not just in Diana but with each of the significant figures in Diana’s life – flawed, conflicted. As the reader, I can empathise with each of them. What are the motivations for parental love? How is one changed by childhood events? Is an adolescent capable of deciding her future? What is the value of friendship and love in shaping a life?

As a therapist, I would have loved to get greater insights and explore Diana’s psyche as she slowly comes to the realisation that she has held herself back and living in a time bubble, and that she is indeed alright. Not that it is indeed the case, or is it? I appreciate a psychological study however may not be everyone’s cup of tea. This said, my reading experience was not compromised in any way. There is enough to maintain my attention and interest. After a somewhat slow and for me, perplexing take by Goodwin in ‘jumping’ across time and events, the second half of the book provide resolutions which showed Goodwin’s skill in weaving all the threads into a coherent tapestry.

Goodwin has created an intriguing story of a person’s life, complex and filled with the confusions of a child, the pain of existence, of irrevocable decisions and the effects on the subsequent decades of her life.

Would I recommend it?

Absolutely. Mesmerising, especially the second half of the book, thought-provoking and sensitively written.

If you enjoy reading real and flawed characters set in a  contemporary background with controversial issues (still!) to boot, this is the book for you (and your book club, if you belong to one).

Ratings:

Realistic Characterization:   3.5/5
Made Me Think:               4/5
Overall enjoyment:           4/5
Readability:                       4/5
Recommended:                 4/5
Overall Rating:                   4/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Kindle USD 4.31
  Paperback USD 12.99
Booktopia Paperback AUD 38.95
Bookdepository Paperback €15.47

– FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

florence-2

© 2015 LitWorldInterviews

 

Book review @FTThum : Perv – The Sexual Deviant in All of Us

Well, it has an interesting title, don’t you think? Provocative, really.

Perv

Title:                Perv – The Sexual Deviant in All of Us
Author:          Jesse Bering
Publishers:   Penguin Random House, UK(2015)
Format:         Paperback
ISBN-10:        0374230897
ISBN-13:        978-0374230890
Website:         http://www.jessebering.com/
Twitter:          @JesseBering
Pages:             333
Genre:            Non-fiction; Psychology

What’s it about?

Jesse Bering is a former director at the Institute of Cognition and Culture at Queen’s University Belfast and also a former professor of psychology at University of Arkansas.

The book begins with the characterization of sexual deviance, and the label ‘perv’. Bering provides the evolution of the term ‘perverse’. It would seem the moniker of ‘perverse’ is attributed to one who is turning away from what is right according to the Judeo-Christian religion, namely an atheist. It was only in the late 19th century that ‘perv’ is common usage in reference to sexual deviance.

Sexual deviance is only deviant as compared to a persisting standard or norm. It was not that long ago that masturbation was considered a sexual deviance and a psychological illness. Further Bering claims, as the title indicates, we are all sexual deviants in varying degrees. We have all thought sexual thoughts which we would not divulge to others in general conversations. Consider, rape fantasies or voyeuristic or exhibitionist fantasies… There is a social standard or norm which few of us would casually flout.

Which brings us to the notion that what goes on in our minds is no one else’s business unless and until we act it out, and perhaps not even then.

Bering states that the present debate on sexual deviance rests on the dichotomy of ‘what is natural’ against ‘what is unnatural’. He suggests perhaps a better test may be ‘what is harmful’. His argument is rather convincing, at least to me.

Treating an individual as a pervert in essence, and hence with a purposefully immoral mind, because his or her brain conjures up atypical erotic ideas or respond sexually to stimuli that other have deemed inappropriate objects of desire, is medieval in both its stupidity and its cruelty.

The gendered conception of sexual deviance between the sexes can be seen from the psychological explanation and treatment approach to nymphomania and satyriasis (this being the male counterpart to nymphomania) – for example, satyrs are men who do sick things, while nymphos are women who are sick as women cannot possibly have sexual desires.

Bering then went on to explain and describe the many different sexual inclinations and with case studies to match, including ornithophilia (an intense desire for birds), necrophilia, foot fetish, podophilia (toes being the object of desires), etc. They are mind-boggling to say the least. His take on paedophilia and the age of consent is courageous indeed given the prevailing sentiment surrounding it. I will leave you to read it for yourself. He does make a sensible point.

Of course, a book on sexual deviance would be incomplete without addressing the issue of sexual orientation – homosexuality, transsexuality etc. Bering states that a person’s sexuality is determined by a lottery at birth – our sexuality is determined through a combination of 4 factors

  • Sexual orientation – homosexual, heterosexual, bi-sexual or asexual;
  • Erotic target – person, animal, inanimate or none;
  • Erotic behaviour – normal intercourse, courtship paraphilia, other paraphilia or masturbation; and
  • Erotic age orientation – pedophilia (prepubescent), hebephilia (pubescent), ephebophilia (older adolescent), teleiophilia (mature adult), gerontophilia (elderly), or none.

Fortunate for me living under present societal standard and norm (‘social jackpot’ in Bering’s term), I am heterosexual, person, normal intercourse and teleiophilia. Care to identify your combination? Remember, it need not be acted upon, thoughts count too 🙂

This book is made all the more interesting by Bering’s irreverence, dry wit and humor, with his deft handling of the ‘intense’ topics. His humane liberal approach is endearing.  There were many laugh-out-loud moments, which earned me quizzical looks on the train commute especially when I was holding up a book titled ‘Perv’.

Perhaps it is time to look at issues of sexuality from the lens of ‘harm’ instead of ‘nature’ or ‘religion’, and to differentiate the harm value between thought and action. Just because we think it, does not mean we will do it. And if we do do it, are we harming others? And if not, is it a matter for public or private governance? And why the condemnation and/or persecution? As a psychotherapist, my question is this – what benefits can shame, stigma, ostracism and separateness create?

And a word of caution from Bering – when we identify a person by his or her sexuality,

“…we’ve lost the trees for the forest. … our knowledge of a person’s hidden sexual desires overshadows everything else we know about him or her…

Who would I recommend this book to?              

This is a book of ideas, visions and possibilities on sexuality. It is intended to challenge prevailing views, standards and norms rather than a book for scientific study. The 13-page bibliographic notes is indicative of a well-researched book.

I recommend this book for the curious minds, as well as those open and willing to explore, at the least intellectually ;-), different paradigms of human sexuality.

 

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization:   NA
Made Me Think:                   4/5
Overall enjoyment:                3.5/5
Readability:                           4/5
Recommended:                      3.5/5
Overall Rating:                  4/5

Buy it at:

Amazon Audible Audio USD 23.61
  Kindle USD 9.64
  Paperback USD 12.97
Booktopia Paperback AUD 20.95
Bookdepository Paperback €11.01

 

– FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

florence-2