Hello everyone and welcome to the first discussion on the read-a-long of My Hundred Lovers! Hopefully you all have read pages 1-88 but don’t worry if you haven’t, there’s no pressure! Read at your own pace and come and join us whenever you are up to speed. Just be aware that if you have not completed the first part of the read-a-long that this post and the comments will contain
Right, now that we’ve got that out of the way….
Firstly how is everyone enjoying the book? I know that when I put my hand up to host this, I was told that it was “brutally honest” and I have to say, they weren’t kidding! It’s probably one of the frankest stories I’ve ever read, the blunt but still sensuous style painting a meandering picture of our protagonist’s life from 0-50 years. Are you enjoying all of the “hundred lovers?” Is there anything in there that has made you uncomfortable? Don’t be afraid to ‘fess up, that’s what we’re all here for.
Our narrator, Deborah, is a woman who seems to have spent her life in pursuit of pleasure and happiness. We learn about her childhood through her short memories – a distant mother, disappointed in Deborah’s looks, jealous and angry at her husband, often resentful of her children, not wanting them. Good in theory, but not necessarily in practice, is how Deborah’s mother seems to find her experience with motherhood. She retreats with alcohol and at one stage in the book, holds a knife to Deborah’s throat. On the other hand, we have her father, painted as someone who shouldn’t have been good looking, but was. A womaniser, he was apparently with another woman while Deborah’s mother June was giving birth to her and Deborah bears witness to his infidelities when she is around 12 years old, also helping him hide them.
- How do you feel about Deborah? Do you like her? Can you relate to her? Did you feel sympathy for her? If so, why and if not, why?
- Do you think that her upbringing and her parents’ fractured relationship sent Deborah on a path of looking for acceptance and love, often in the most unlikely and unfortunate places?
- Does she use sex as a way to find or feel love?
Of course this book isn’t just about sex… Deborah chronicles animals that have been special to her, people in her life such as her Nana Elsie, her car Claudette and also food. The chapter entitled Cheese-Chocolate-Croissants is one of my favourites in the whole novel – rich with description, ripe with imagery. I wanted to eat everything that was mentioned, so vivid and real was the writing. Did any of the chapters stand out like that for you?
I’ve lifted a couple of quotes that resonated with me that I think might also be good in terms of a discussion:
Romance between the average couple dies two year, six months and twenty-five days into marriage (p1)
This is the opening line of the novel. I found this interesting because it’s such a short amount of time! I’ve only been married about 17 months, so it would sort of depress me if my marriage was to die in another 12 months! Do you think this opening quote is significant in how Deborah feels about marriage, from her experiences with it?
When the knife was at my throat I left my body. That is to day, some part of me detached itself from my own skin. You mightsuppose that at the moment I left my body, I began my long quest to reunite myself with it (p12)
The first boys fingers to touch that secret pulse are her brother’s (p19).
Her father never tries to seduce the girl in a literal sense but he seduces her into a world of sexually incontinent, feckless men, so that for many years the only men she finds attractive will betray her (p44).
In the months leading up to my fiftieth birthday I observed the first tentative signs of life’s waning. The blood which had flowed from me month after month for almost forty years began to flow fitfully. At the same time the face I had worn all my adult life began to change into the face of someone else. I was forced to understand that there was a direct link between the body’s hormonal succulence and the succulence of youth (p5).
Okay now I’d like to turn it over to you guys to come and voice your opinions! Please feel free to bring up any topic, issue, etc from the novels, whether I’ve mentioned it or not. There’s nothing that is taboo (as you’ve probably guessed from the novel itself!). I hope everyone is enjoying taking part and that the discussion only enhances your reading experience of this book.