Welcome to our Par Femme Book Club: a safe space for well-read women to reveal the titillating, back-arching, lascivious literature that's been ruling their worlds. This week we pick the brain of Carly Rogers—Dermalogica Australia's Communications and Media Manager.
1. Sexographies (2008) by Gabriela Wiener
This is a recent purchase and one that I devoured in less than 48 hours, thanks to a few domestic flights. It’s a collection of mini-essays of sorts, covering various sexual adventures and investigations by journalist Gabriela Wiener who “specialises in putting herself in extreme situations and writing in the first person about those experiences.” Wiener does well to turn said experiences into informative journalism whilst simultaneously allowing an open, honest, and captivating insight into her experience dabbling in various sexual subcultures. These range from provocative (swingers clubs, threesomes, dominatrixes, transgender prostitution, and polyamorous marriages) through to more widely relatable (such as motherhood and body dysmorphia). It’s equal parts intriguing and educational.
2. Work (1986) by Helmut Newton
OK, so it’s not a novel exactly (...at all), but it’s a book that is so close to my heart. It’s survived 12 house moves and numerous spillages of vino rosso, and continues to take pride of place on my coffee table 10 years after purchase. There’s no doubt in my eyes that Newton was almost unparalleled as one of the greatest fashion photographers of the 20th century. His obsession with and celebration of the female form in all its glory (in the days before laser existed and a full bush was the look du jour) was pure perfection. Sure, he toed the line in his personal and professional life pretty regularly, but for the most part, the resulting imagery was so darkly erotic, overtly sexual, and empowering that I’m willing to overlook it entirely. Voyeurism at its finest.
3. Jealousy (2017) by Marcel Proust
Full disclosure: this is actually a novella taken from Proust’s In Search of Lost Time
, which I have not yet had the pleasure of delving into (aka it’s a behemoth and I haven’t been able to commit the time to it in between other areas of life, love, work, wine, face masks et al.). Conveniently, this Penguin Vintage Mini allows you to experience the highlights without over-committing a large percentage of your spare time to one truly flawed man (sorry, Marcel). The sensation of jealousy is perhaps more common in relationships than we care to acknowledge; I would bet that everyone has been touched by it, or gone so far as to indulge in it as a habit propelled by other anxieties. This book provides a male perspective on the unwarranted obsession and paranoia that can be found in a new relationship and shows just how quickly it can poison and alienate new love. It’s uncomfortable, relatable, and offers a realistic juxtaposition to the typical Hollywood idea of romance and how early love should play out.4. Call Me By Your Name (2007) by Andre Aciman
I’m obviously not alone in my appreciation for this novel and I’m undoubtedly one of the thousands who graduated to the book after seeing what was arguably the most beautiful film of 2017. I defy you not to start planning an Italian summer holiday after watching it. Hell, I’m pretty sure it was the catalyst that saw my partner impulse buy a mint gelato-coloured Vespa (not that I’m complaining—it’s a great Vespa). If you’ve seen the film, it’s impossible to read the book without hotly anticipating ~that~ peach scene in the back of your mind as you progress through the pages. That said, this novel runs much deeper than a dreamy location and hedonistic fruit scenes. It’s sophisticated, poignant, flirtatious, risque, and heartbreaking all at once.
5. Bonjour Tristesse (1954) by Françoise Sagan
An old favourite that I first read years ago. An easy, somewhat indulgent read (the author wrote it at age 17) with surprisingly existential undertones, it’s exactly the kind of story you want to throw in your eco-friendly, Instagram-ubiquitous string bag and take to the beach to enjoy on a hazy afternoon where you don’t feel like thinking too hard or too deep. Set in French Riviera in the 1950s, it follows a scheming 18-year-old and her wealthy playboy father as, throughout the course of one summer, they basically self-sabotage their lives. It’s not a super scandalous novel by today’s standards, but it caused a huge uproar when first published because, in the author’s own words, “it was inconceivable that a young girl of 17 or 18 should make love, without being in love, with a boy of her own age, and not be punished for it. It was unacceptable, too, that a young girl should have the right to use her body as she will, and derive pleasure from it without incurring a penalty."
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Read Par Femme Book Club: Gemma Janes.