All The Books I Can Read

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My Hundred Lovers – Discussion Part 3 and Wrap-Up

Hello everyone and welcome to the third and final part of the discussion on My Hundred Lovers, by Susan Johnson. How is everyone? It’s a terrible day here where I am, perfect for reading and hopefully for some dissecting of this book!

So in the third part of the book we learn a few little things that some of us had been wondering throughout. I’ll talk a little bit about this section and then at the end I’ll have a little bit about the book overall. As always, feel free to bring up your own points of discussion or issues that have resonated with you in any way.

  • What do you think of Deborah’s unusual friendship with the eccentric Horatia? Do you like Horatia?
  • Do you think Deborah was drawn to ‘the beautiful lover’ because of his “full sensuous mouth that bore a curious resemblance to my fathers”? (p177). Or did she just want to sleep with a very beautiful man, so she could say/know that she had!
  • The chapter entitled ‘Breasts’ was for me, both beautiful and sad, one part devoted to her new son and the joy she feels at him and also the wonder at her new ‘page 3 breasts’ and the other part devoted to her husband’s belligerent attitude towards the new baby. Satisfied vs unsatisfied. It seems like the sort of chapter that deliberately raises sympathy towards Deborah and directs animosity towards her husband.
  • The Suspicious Wanderer’s past catches up with her in the chapter ‘The worried lover’ (p191) where she undergoes a test for HIV, which is becoming more commonly known. Do you think that the rise of AIDS and the fact that she knew someone that contracted it had any repercussions on Deborah’s behaviour?
  • In this section, Deborah has a liason with a woman. Do you feel that she is genuinely bisexual, merely curious or in love with the idea of love, no matter where it may come from?
  • Her husband is named David, the same name as her father. Do you feel this is significant? (p219). Do you think that she just keeps finding men who remind her of her father in some way, in any way?
  • Her father buys for her and her alone, a beautiful black pearl (p226) – not one for her mother or her sister. It seems that this sort of event happened all too infrequently in her life, someone singling her out and giving her something beautiful.
  • David an Deborah marry in haste, despite numerous warnings from various people. Did it seem their union was destined to be doomed from the start? (p227)
  • In this section, we finally find out what became of their marriage (p243). Did you see this coming or did it surprise you? Why do you think Deborah still refers to him as her husband, even though he is not?
  • Just after that chapter, is a beautiful moment shared between her and her sister Jane (p246). I know that I for one, would’ve liked to have seen a little more of their turbulent relationship. Do you think that enough insight into the two sisters was given?
  • When Deborah finds that there were people who knew of the affair, she never speaks to any of them ever again (256). Does this seem fair/reasonable to you? Especially after she tolerated the shadow lover’s years of infidelity? Did you feel sympathy for her?
  • Deborah grieves more for  the loss of the houseboat and the local houseboat community than she does her husband (p257). Is she right to feel such anger, hurt and betrayal even though she doesn’t love him anymore? Or should she have just let go?

Now that the whole book is complete, how do you feel about it now, versus in the beginning? Did you enjoy it more or less as the book went on? Do you feel you were given a whole picture of Deborah, her life and her lovers? Or do you feel there were things missing, things you would’ve liked elaborated? Did you enjoy the read-a-long experience, if it was a new one for you? Would you do it again? For what it’s worth, I think this book was absolutely perfect for a read-a-long! There are few books I’ve read that I think could’ve generated such discussion on so many topics!

I’d just like to say thanks to everyone that participated and joined in the discussion, I certainly had a lot of fun hosting! Thanks also to Allen & Unwin for organising this and setting us all up with copies of the book.

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My Hundred Lovers Read-a-long Discussion Part 2

Hello everyone and welcome to the second week of discussion for My Hundred Lovers. Before we start I’d just like to thank everyone for the discussion last week! Everyone was so forthcoming with comments and opinions and that is what makes a read-a-long so thank you all for your high level of participation.

Now we’ve read 2/3’s of the book roughly and have learned a lot more about Deborah. Has anyone’s feelings on her changed at all? Do you feel any more or less understanding of her as a character and a woman? Do you judge her, for her actions? As we found out there are probably a few sections in this part that would raise eyebrows these days!

  • We’ve learned that Deborah was married but so far her husband has not been a large part of the book, only mentioned here and there. On p172, when talking about her love for the beach she says “The glorious summer I lived with my son across the road from Rainbow Beach after I lost my husband.” For those who have NOT read on past p173, do you want to take a guess of what she means by ‘lost’?
  • On p91, Deborah states that “In France, she was someone else. She was a girl whose limbs were free, with carte blanche to fill herself in.” She distances herself from this by referring to herself in the third person again, as though she’s talking about someone else, but she talks of herself. Why do you feel she felt things were different in France, that she could ‘fill herself in’?
  • Was anyone disturbed by the chapter ‘Three Men In One Day’ (p103)? This chapter gives more insight into her family and how they have fared while Deborah was in Paris: “…the sister had grown even more beautiful, the mother more drunk, the father on his magic carpet even further away with his endless maps and horizons. The poor brother had long since stepped onto that drinking path which would lead him to an early death.” She has also lost her beloved dog, put down due to old age and and family cat has disappeared. Do you think anything in that above quote impacted on her decision to sleep with the three men in one day? Is it more simple than that? Can Deborah just not say no?
  • Did you find it hard reading this chapter knowing that things today are quite different and that sort of behavior is is considered to be far more dangerous? Then, “Every girl was on the pill and no one used condoms.” Today there is an attempt at a far more different message concerning sexual safety. Do you think Deborah would’ve been as promiscuous if her time was now? Is it something that you don’t feel worries her at all?
  • The shadow lover, whom she is sleeping with upon her return from Paris (as well as the above 3 men) taunts her with remarks that she is not clever, nor is she as beautiful as her sister. She retaliates by “…sleeping with as many lovers as possible”. Why do you feel she stays with the shadow lover, who treats her this way? Whom she found sleeping with someone else at a party, the reason she slept with one of the 3 men in one day. Do you believe that she loves him? Is it habit?
  • The Blind Lover (p123) chapter interested me greatly. He seemed a good, caring, loving man, at ease with his disability and determined to live a full and happy life. Deborah tried and failed to fall in love with him – if she cannot love such a man, can she love any man who is good for her? Does she have a predisposition to drama that dates back to her childhood? Is she always destined to make bad decisions involving men?
  • In this section, Deborah has an abortion. The father of the child is unknown, due to all the men she has been sleeping with. Why do you think Deborah cries when the procedure is performed on her? Is it regret that she isn’t keeping the baby? Or something deeper, such as the reasons behind why she is in this situation? I found the quote “The kindly Chinese doctor has let Ro stand in for all the absent fathers” disturbing and sad. She then ignores a directive not to have penetrative sex for two weeks after the procedure and sleeps with someone she has zero interest in. Does this tie back in with the above question about Deborah not being able to say no? Equating sex with love, or with worth, or with something that she desperately seeks and will take from anywhere to fill a void?
  • When she finally leaves the shadow lover, she goes to the dissolute lover, which she describes as “out of the frying pan and into the fire!” Is this more indication of her incapability to make wise choices with men?
  • “By then the Suspicious Wanderer knew her romantic streak was fatal.” (p138). Do you agree that she has a romantic streak? Does her idea of romantic and yours match up? And how could it be fatal?
  • I felt a bright spot in this section, a beautiful chapter was the one concerning her love for Nana Elsie and vice versa (p147). Nana Elsie is proud of her in a way that her parents aren’t but this quote “There’s nothing like family Debbie. Friends are all very well but it’s family who stand by you when the chips are down” by Nana Elsie seems very idealised. Surely she recognises that it wasn’t particularly like that for Deborah?
  • We also see the return of ‘the deflowerer’, Jonathan Jamieson (p157). How did you feel about Deborah’s involvement with him?

I knew when I was preparing this post making my notes that I’d found lots I thought would be good for discussion but I didn’t realise it was quite so much! If I’ve left anything out that you feel is important, please don’t hesitate to bring it up. I’m looking forward to hearing how you all felt about this section.

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My Hundred Lovers Read-a-long – Discussion Post #1

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

***SPOILERS***. 

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.

-Bree 🙂

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June Read-a-long – My Hundred Lovers, by Susan Johnson Schedule

Hi everyone! Hopefully now you have all received your copies of My Hundred Lovers but if you haven’t there’s still time! I thought I’d just post the schedule, which looks like this:

Week 1: Pages 1-88

Week 2: Pages 89-173

Week 3: Pages 174-End.

I will be putting up discussion posts on the 8th, 15th and 22nd of June. I picked those dates as they’re Fridays and I thought it would be good to give people the weekend to come and read the posts and comment as I know everyone is busy and has plenty of other commitments.

Hope you all enjoy the book and see you back here on the 8th of June for our first part discussion.

-Bree 🙂

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June Read-A-Long – My Hundred Lovers, by Susan Johnson

In June I am very excited to be hosting a read-a-long for publisher Allen & Unwin of My Hundred Lovers, a new book by Australian author Susan Johnson. From the blurb:

A woman, on the eve of her fiftieth birthday, reflects on one hundred moments from a lifetime’s sensual adventures. After the love, hatred and despair are done with, the great and trivial acts of her bodily life reveal an imperfect, yet whole self. By turns humorous, sharp, haunting and wise, this is an original and exhilarating novel from one of Australia’s premier writers.
Lyrical and exquisite, My Hundred Lovers captures the sheer wonder of life, desire and love.

For the first three weeks in June myself and other bloggers will be reading this book in sections and then discussing it both here on my blog and also on the participants own blogs, should they choose. I’ll be posting weekly, highlighting key points and hopefully there’ll plenty of conversation and opinions as we talk about this exciting novel. I can’t wait to read it, I think it sounds fascinating and I’ve been warned that it’s very, very brutally honest in its style which I think should definitely promote some very interesting topics of discussion.

If you’re an Australian blogger who wants to take part in the read-a-long then please email me your details at 1girl2manybooks {@} gmail {.} com with: your name, link to your blog and postal address so that I can pass your details on to the publisher. There are still some spots open so if this sounds like something you’d like to read and take part in, don’t hesitate to get in contact. You can read at your own pace and come back and comment on the relevant posts  whenever you’re ready, there’s no actual requirement to read along exactly to the schedule (which will be posted when I’ve received my copy of the book and can best divide it up into equal parts).

If you’re already signed up through A&U, add your link to the Mr Linky below so we can all get to know each other!

Feel free to introduce yourselves in the comments too. For those taking part who don’t know me, I’m Bree. I’m 30 years old, I live in Melbourne and I’m a mother of two boys – my eldest will be 4 in August and my youngest is 8 months old. Reading has been my escape for as long as I can remember – my parents bought me a 6ft x 3ft bookcase for my 8th birthday and I filled it that day. I’m a book lover, a book hoarder and I started this blog 2 years ago (this week actually!) in order to keep a record of what I was reading in the year and my thoughts on each book. I never dreamed it would lead me into such an amazing community of other book lovers and bloggers. I’ve participated in several read-a-longs before and really enjoyed them and talking to so many other people about the book, but this is the first one I’ve hosted myself so I’m really excited about that. You can follow me on twitter @1girl2manybooks if you like and I’ll tag any twitter posts with the hashtag #MyHundredLovers

I hope you all have fun, enjoy the book and join in the discussion.

I’ll be linking up all the discussion posts with the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012 database and counting the reading of My Hundred Lovers towards my personal goal. Anyone who is also taking part in this challenge, don’t forget that this book qualifies!

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