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With 50 Shades of Grey seemingly taking the world by storm, retailers have got onto a good thing and are pushing various alternatives to the EL James trilogy for new readers of erotic fiction. Waterstones can currently be seen promoting a stand with the trilogy and then several other books all with similar styled front covers and of similar length.
I enjoyed the 50 Shades trilogy, it wasn't exactly well written but it was an easy read. So when in ASDA a few weeks ago I purchased "The Bride Stripped Bare" by Nikki Gemmell. A book which uses the review from the Sunday Telegraph on its front cover, stating; "A book which dares to spell out what women really want".
The front cover uses all the same features as the EL James trilogy. There is a black background blending into grey with a blurry necklace leading to a crisp heart shaped charm with a gem in the middle. The texture of the covers has a waxy feel to it and the title and author are printed in clear white lettering.
The back page offers a synopsis, just two paragraphs long intended to draw the reader in. The back page read well and I put it in the basket for just £3.97, compared to the price on the back of £7.99.
The book starts with a mother sending a manuscript to a publishing house, requesting they take a read. And then the lessons start.
Gemmell writes this book as a series of lessons rather than chapters, with 138 in total.
Each lesson is between 1 and 4 pages in length and each begin with a sentence. For example "Lesson 105 - Young wives are among the most important members of the community upon whose health and intelligence depend the welfare of the husband, children and servants". The book is also dividing up into three sections, but I failed to really notice the separation from one section to another.
And so we are introduced to the author of the script, a young woman in her thirties and ex teacher because her husband wanted to support her, a woman enjoying a new found freedom. We meet the author on her honeymoon to Marrakech where she revels in the thought of not having to work and spending the rest of her life with her husband. Then we meet Cole, the husband who is cold and elusive. Who shows little emotion except for when greed and need take over. Sex is mundane, quick and unromantic. Then there is the affair.
We see the author coming to terms with her husband's infidelity by spending her days in a London Café and then a library. She meets Gabriel a 30 year old virgin, who is aspiring to produce a film.
Our author goes from a shy teacher with little confidence to a teacher of sex, with Gabriel being her pupil.
The story develops along this theme until (as always) something changes. We are introduced to only a handful of characters throughout the book. Theo (best friend & subsequently former best friend), Martha (library buddy) and mum (palaeontologist) in addition to our author, Cole and Gabriel make up the majority of the storylines.
Gemmell has written several novels in her time, this one was first published in 2003 but was republished in 2011. Initially this booked was printed as "The Bride Stripped Bare - Annonymous". Gemmell chose not to use her name on the cover. However, the most recent version drops the "anonymous" and has her name across the cover.
The Bride Stripped Bare is written in the 2nd person for example; "You're wearing a black satin dress that has antique kimono panels through its bodice and you usually love this dress but tonight it's wrong, you're overdressed".
From the very beginning I found this style of writing awkward and difficult to read. It is unlike any other fiction book I have ever read and it doesn't help with the fluidity of the story. The grammar is shocking, sentences are long and commas aren't used as often as they should be. Additionally, Gemmell repeats things for example "You're tired. You're tired". I wasn't sure whether this was deliberate of an accident in the script.
For the first 153 pages of this book, I struggled to get involved with it. I found I wasn't interested in picking it up or spending my evening reading it. However, I have to finish a book once I have started it, so giving up was not an option. After the first 153 pages, things got better. The story picked up, developed. From here onwards I began to enjoy the book and I read the rest of it in just 3 hours.
This has lead me to think that perhaps I either didn't appreciate the style of writing from the start or I just got used to it an overlooked it by the halfway point. I certainly overlooked the lessons written at the top of each lesson. Whilst relevant in that they have obviously been chosen to link into the story, they were also irrelevant in that you had to think about why they related.
The end of the book has left me with the most questions. But you will have to read it to know why as I think if I explained the twist, then there really is little point to the novel.
This book is really not on the same level as the 50 trilogy. The eroticism is mild in comparison and it lacks detail.
There are several themes which run throughout, including betrayal and infidelity but also lack of self-esteem and self-abuse. Emotion runs throughout the novel is several guises and is quick and well placed.
The author almost makes it acceptable to have an affair and seemingly justifies their actions to make it acceptable. This, I would guess, is similar to reality where a person knows that their actions are wrong but continue regardless.
There is also a sex scene with 3 strangers, which I found hard to comprehend as it was as if the author was prostituting themselves, but this was never referred back to.
Finally there are no consequences in this novel which is a complete failure to portray reality.
I wouldn't read this again, but if you have nothing better to do it's not the worst book in the world. If you are expecting erotic fiction, I would suggest you find something else.