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The Sex Diaries - Arianne Cohen

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Paperback: 368 pages / Publisher: Vermilion / Published: 20 Jun 2013 / Language: English

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      02.08.2013 20:53
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      A peek into the varied bedroom habits of 40 Brits from different backgrounds

      As far as 'doing what it says on the tin' goes, this book is a good one. It's the diaries, plural, from people, plural, talking about their sex lives. But it's not just the doing of the deed and the sowing of the seed, it's also all the stuff that goes with being in a relationship or not being in one. The daydreams. The texts. The efforts made to secure a hook-up, if there's not one waiting for you at home.

      A few dozen people have their stories told in this book, or rather tell us their stories themselves. All based in/around the UK and with an age spread of teens to 70s (both facts preface each new diary, along with the writer's gender), the diversity of the authors is stunning, as is the matter of fact title given to each entry, to give you a clear picture of what is coming next.

      "The insecure cabaret dancer pussyfooting her way into a hot, healthy, relationship"

      "The rampantly cheating family man"

      "The kinky bride marrying a much younger man"

      "The sub dating a first time dom with self esteem issues"

      "The nudist lorry driver marrying his mistress"

      "The post-divorce counsellor in search of less therapy and more sex"

      The pleasure of this book has to be in the diversity. Many people have written their own, similar stories in recent years, but they invariably focus on just one person and their partner (or many partners, or clients). This is forty books in one, but with enough detail in each entry to get a flavour of the writer and their preferences.

      I started out by saying that the book is true to its title, and is a collection of sex diaries, and it is. But I was somewhat surprised by how little action there is between the sheets, between these pages. It is, interestingly, not even that explicit a book, as a lot of the people in it dwell on observations "the bed smells of sex" or emotions "Feeling horny as hell, and a girl at work caught me looking down her top. She's now wearing a scarf" rather than actions. Sometimes it's the utterly un-erotic back story that fills in the most pieces of the puzzle:

      "Sam met me at the train station with tulips. He thinks they're my favourite flower. I don't know why; they're not. I don't have the heart to tell him that though."

      Ultimately, this is a book about love and intimacy and the way they manifest themselves and how we interpret actions. When the pensioner says she knows how her husband feels about her from the way he rubs her feet, but she still just wants to hear him say he loves her, my heart melted a little.

      I wasn't bothered by the timing of entries and rarely took notice of how much time has elapsed. There is a huge variety in length of entries, from a few stubby words to more long winded passages, and this caught my eye more than whether the second entry in someone's journal came 5 minutes or 5 hours after the first. Still, the diary format works well for moving the story along, and letting people say what happened in their own words. The stop and go nature of the entries actually made it flow more, which is important for stories written by amateurs rather than professional authors.

      Gay or straight, male or female, the thing most of us have in common is sex, whatever form that might take (and in this book, it takes lots of different forms). These stories show just how often people think about sex, either directly or indirectly and frankly it's a wonder any of this lot get anything done in their jobs as sound engineers, marketing managers, consultants, teachers, nurses and journalists. There are lots of healthy and lots of unhealthy relationships in the book, but the thing that they all share is that they're real, and easy to relate to. It's a book you need to read with an open mind. Some of the things people think, dream and do in it may not be to your taste, but horses for courses (and for the record, no horses are harmed). The language is less extreme than you might fear, and although both the his and hers C words crop up, they're used casually in passing rather than for profanity.

      The great thing about this book is that even when you feel you'll have nothing in common with a narrator, you start reading and can quickly pick out similarities between their story and yours. My headline might be "The public sector manager by day, national champion cheerleader by night, who shops at richoldmen.com" (only joking, sweetheart) but give me a story about a horny single dad or porn loving bachelor, and I'll easily find a way to identify with what they're seeing, saying and doing.

      I found this a fascinating read because although I'm from the generation that thinks nothing of talking frankly with its friends about sex, the stories in this book took that to a whole new level. You get to be nosy, without embarrassment, and find out things you never thought to ask about. Highly recommended.

      This review first appeared on www.thebookbag.co.uk

      Out now in paperback and on Kindle

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